One errant tee shot.
One extra swing in the sand.
One putt that lipped out.
Every golfer’s missed one shot in their lifetime that would’ve turned a good round into a great round; a great round into an unforgettable round.
Or if you’re the Fairfield Warde boys golf team, one shot means a whole lot more.
Last spring, the Mustangs narrowly missed out on both the FCIAC and Division I tournaments by the smallest of margins. Warde missed the cut for the state tournament by .58 points — a margin coach Peter Shanazu, a math teacher at the school, equates to one or two strokes.
In turn, the narrow miss and ensuing “what ifs” provided ample motivation for his returning golfers.
“They talked about it all winter,” Shanazu said this weekend. “They would pop into my classroom all the time and ask how I was doing. They were motivated to make a difference this year.”
And that’s exactly what’s happening for Warde this spring. On Monday, Warde defeated Wilton for its fifth straight win. The victory also puts the Mustangs (7-2) on the verge of both the FCIAC and Division I tournaments for the first time in six years.
“We’ve been practicing on weekends and not taking any days off,” junior Ashton Lewis said this week. “We’re taking golf seriously, which is the way it should be at the high school level if you want to compete.”
One big shift for Warde this spring is the players have taken time to scout courses and figure out the best way to score at certain holes.
“I tried to put that in place. It didn’t work. They said, ‘Yeah great idea,’ ” Shanazu said. “It has to be them that does it. If I do the legwork, it’s not going to help them become better athletes when they leave this program. A lot of them have aspirations of playing in college. They have to take it on themselves to show their coaches they can do that.”
Lewis is the Mustangs’ top player this spring with a 4.92 differential (the scoring metric used to rank golfers in the CIAC) along with a 40.7 average score. Lewis’ fellow juniors Ben Zeisler (5.70/41.56) and Harry Dehler (5.92/41.78) are also playing well, meaning the Mustangs are pointed in the right direction for the future.
Senior Ammar Ali has provided ample leadership in the captain’s role, along with classmate Michael Murphy. The Mustangs also got a lift when senior Christian Homa opted to play golf rather than baseball due to an arm injury. Homa’s grandfather was the first club pro at Smith Richardson.
“Golf runs in my family so I figured I’d give it a try,” said Homa, who’d like to play club golf at UConn. “I think we’re going to surprise a few teams to be honest. People are underestimating us a bit. Fairfield hasn’t really had that great of a team in a while. We have a great team this year.”
The Mustangs’ balance focus along with fun on the course, an approach that continues to fuel their success.
“Our coach set it up really well,” Ali said. “He said ‘For two minutes, just focus on your shot, but after that, have fun.’ ”
Warde certainly had fun on April 30 when it beat Trumbull by 20 strokes at Brooklawn Country Club (154-174). The Mustangs registered four scores under 40 — something they did just once as a team last season.
“Their coach said, ‘You know what, you could have beaten New Canaan or Greenwich on that day,’ ” said Shanazu, noting the undefeated FCIAC powers.
Warde’s two team losses this year came against New Canaan and Staples. Warde plays Greenwich at the Stanwich Club on May 20. The next day (May 21) is the Fairfield Cup at the Patterson Club with Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Prep and ND-Fairfield.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Shanazu said. “I’m really hopeful we can make both states and FCIACs. I’m really optimistic to see where this group of three core juniors takes themselves next year and how many of the three play in college. I think they have the potential to do so, either DI or DII. They’re enthusiastic. I’ve contacted some coaches from DI schools to have them come take a look.”