ALTAMONT — Dannah Smith’s time with the Schalmont High School boys’ golf team has been an up-and-down experience.
That, of course, is in the best way possible.
The freshman has steadily climbed up the Sabres’ depth chart in her three seasons with the squad, while her scores have consistently gone down.
Schalmont coach Anthony Cassale attributes both of those things to Smith’s passion for the game, her hours spent playing and her determination to get better.
“She has a love for being out there. She has a love for the game,” Cassale said Tuesday after the Sabres’ Colonial Council match with Mohonasen/Schenectady at Orchard Creek Golf Club. “She is out there playing all the time.”
Smith has been playing with the Sabres since she made the team as a seventh-grader.
“You could see something in the kid,” Cassale said. “That’s why I kept her as a seventh-grader. She wasn’t a regular in our starting group, but she played a few matches.”
That changed last season when the daughter of Niskayuna golf coach Ben Smith became a match lineup regular for the Sabres. This season, she’s Schalmont’s No. 2 player behind Mark Amedore.
“I gained 20 yards on my shot, and I am better at putting,” Smith said.
Smith averaged 64 for nine holes as a seventh-grader, lowered that to 52.5 strokes as an eighth-grader and is averaging 46 in matches this fall.
And, that’s playing from the men’s tees.
“Her game has improved,” Cassale said of the 14-year-old, who is a member of the NENY PGA Junior Golf Association. “It’s been nice to see. She’s one of my top players now.”
Smith said she gets a charge from playing mostly against boys from other schools.
“It makes me want to push myself,” said Smith, who also plays basketball at Schalmont.
Smith’s best nine-hole effort was in a high school tryout this year, a five-over 41 at Orchard Creek, which is Schalmont’s home course.
“My goal this season is to get in the 30s somehow,” Smith said. “A 39 would be amazing.”
Cassale said Smith is not only an asset in terms of match scoring, but also as a mentor to other players on the team that includes several newcomers. In Tuesday’s match, the coach paired Smith, who “has been swinging clubs since I was four or five,” with first-year player Matt Stoliker in an effort to enhance his play.
“She has experience, and she loves to help others with their game,” Cassale said.
Stoliker finished with a 55 Tuesday, while Smith turned in a 50.
“She’s pretty good at everything,” Stoliker, a sophomore, said after their round was complete.
“In the Junior PGA, I helped out kids, and I love doing that,” Smith said. “I love to watch the younger kids play.”
Though still a youngster herself, Cassale said part of Smith’s growth as a golf player is her ability to maintain a steady keel whether she drops a long putt or has a drive sail wide off the fairway.
“Her demeanor is so professional on the course,” Cassale said.