When Amsterdam golf coach Tim Jones assembled his team back in 2015, it looked more like a modified squad than a varsity team.
Hit hard by graduations and departures from the year before, the 2015 Rams relied heavily on a group of middle-schoolers to make immediate contributions. There were growing pains, for sure, but five years later, a number of those then-neophytes have honed their games to the point of being top players in the Foothills Council this season.
Three seventh-graders who made their varsity debuts for Amsterdam in 2015 — C.J. Durinick and brothers Ryan and Andy Welch — are now senior standouts who have helped the Rams to a strong start in this abbreviated fall 2020 season.
“Every year they’ve progressed,” Jones said. “They fell in love with the sport, and you can tell through their games. Each year, they’ve added something else to their game. You can see how they’ve improved.”
Between them, the seniors boast a combined 16 seasons of scholastic golf experience. Durinick and Ryan Welch are both six-year varsity players, while Andy Welch took his freshman and junior seasons off to pursue other sports, serving as the kicker and punter for the Amsterdam football team in 2019.
With football pushed back to a March start by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association in a jumbled high school sports calendar impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Andy Welch traded his kicking tee back in for a golf tee this autumn.
“It’s something to do. It’s fun,” he said. “I’m just trying to play the best golf I can right now.”
While Andy Welch was missing from the Amsterdam golf lineup for a couple of seasons, Durinick and Ryan Welch have been mainstays all along.
Durinick has also become an accomplished tournament player in his own right — he’s a back-to-back winner of the Angelo “Babe” Russo Junior City Championship at Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, winning the most recent title in early September — and is relishing the chance to compete in school colors this fall.
“It’s like an adrenaline rush every time you get on the first tee to go compete,” Durinick said. “It’s something that you don’t want to get rid of.”
For both of Amsterdam’s six-year players, the fact that they’re even getting the chance to play this fall is something to be appreciative of.
With so many sports being postponed or canceled since March — Durinick missed out on his junior baseball season when the spring sports season was wiped out by the pandemic — they’re both happy to be back playing golf for their school once more this fall.
“This means a lot to me,” Ryan Welch said, “especially considering that football and a lot of the other sports got moved back.”
“It’s a blessing that we’re able to come out here and compete,” Durinick said.
Durinick has taken a different approach to the way he’s playing matches this season. Typically, he uses regular season dual matches as a chance to tinker with aspects of his game and get himself into peak form before the Section II postseason — while also making sure to shoot enough low rounds that he qualifies for the area tournaments.
This year, the focus is on going all out to help the Rams win as many of their eight league matches as possible. So far, they’ve been successful, with the team’s only loss coming to an undefeated Broadalbin-Perth squad.
“It’s kind of a different outlook that I have right now on the season,” Durinick said minutes before Wednesday’s match against Johnstown, where he shot the medalist round of 40 in a 179-208 Amsterdam win, “just to take what I’m doing today and try to help the team win.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.