DOLGEVILLE — Wednesday saw the first competition in Section II since March, when the last contests to take place before school sports were halted because of the coronavirus pandemic were basketball state playoff games.
That winter season saw the basketball, bowling and hockey championships canceled, while no spring competitions were held.
The OESJ Wolves and Fort Plain Hilltoppers kicked off the delayed fall sports start with a Western Athletic Conference match at Hopson Hills Golf Course in Dolgeville.
The afternoon introduced new rules for safety, several for speed of play along with low scores from its regulars and a surprise from one of its newcomers.
Fort Plain senior Evan Crouse earned medalist honors with his 25 over six holes Wednesday, leading Fort Plain to an 8.5-6.5 victory.
“The league wanted to make it a contest and as we go into October darkness is going to set at 5:45, 6 p.m.” Jordan said. “We figured, let’s just make it six [holes].”
The league also gave the coaches leeway in changing the tee box selections, and Jordan and Fort Plain’s John Fureno agreed to use the red tees. Normally, the golfers play from the white tees.
“We’ve only been out here two days prior to this, so we don’t want them to get frustrated right away,” Fureno said. “Hitting from the red tees and being closer just builds that confidence and lets them enjoy themselves today.”
A lengthy hitter off the tee box, Crouse had to adjust on the first day of competition.
“The reds cut every hole 150 yards. That changed it a lot,” Crouse said. “The short game was tough, the greens were a little tough today, a little hard to hit on.
“I added some strokes on the short game, but still had a good score, so I can’t complain.”
OESJ freshman Brandon Hulten led the Wolves with his six-hole 27.
With 10 years of experience on the links, Hulten adjusted to the length much easier than the mandatory mask requirement during his round.
“It was different, definitely, but I’m used to playing reds when I play with anyone else,” Hulten said. “I don’t like the mask at all. It’s uncomfortable.”
Another of the day’s highlights came from the surge of girls’ soccer players that joined the Wolves this season, including sophomore Anderson Eggleston, who changed up her fall commitment from stopping shots to taking them.
Eggleston was a goalie last fall. On Wednesday, she was the No. 6 golfer for OESJ on her third day of playing golf — in her life.
“It was kind of heartbreaking, but then I decided I was going to join golf,” Eggleston said after she received news that the WAC would move soccer to the Fall II schedule, beginning March 1. “I thought it would be fun with my friends.”
Eggleston made the decision Friday, hit the range Saturday and joined soccer teammates Sydney Schell, Carolyn Littrell and Madisyn Schell who also joined the Wolves golf squad.
Eggleston found out that the game is not as easy as it looks.
“I thought it would have been easier than it is, but I’m kind of struggling now,” Eggleston said. “I’m really nervous, and I don’t really know what clubs to use.”
Despite her angst, she carded a 40 during her first career match along with two points.
With scores ranging from 25 to a trio of 40s on Wednesday, there were nothing but smiles underneath the masks of each golfer and their respective coaches.
“We’re excited it’s happening. We weren’t sure for the longest time,” Fureno said. “I’m just very happy for the kids to have the opportunity to get out here and compete again.”
Fort Plain — Crouse 25, Landry 36, Rogers 31, Keane 39, Brown 40. OESJ — Watson 39, Hulten 27, Bergan 33, Doxtater 40, Brundage 37, Eggleston 40.
Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] and follow @StanHudy on Twitter.