Before last fall, Albany Academy for Girls golf coach Sarah Adamowski found that setting up a schedule against Section II competition wasn’t much of a task.
“It was us and Holy Names,” Adamowski said of the area’s private school girls’ golf pioneers. “Last year it kind of exploded in Section II, and we played a lot of Suburban Council schools.”
On Tuesday, Adamowski’s Bears finished off their season by playing a Saratoga Central Catholic squad that joined Broadalbin-Perth, Johnstown and Gloversville this fall as Section II’s newest girls’ golf teams, and brought the total of them to 16.
“It’s a sport that is taking off,” Section II girls’ golf coordinator Eileen Troy said. “Once we were able to get permission to offer golf and get it going, I knew it would. I’m not surprised.”
Neither is Adamowski, a 2012 Amsterdam graduate who saw the game like many in Section II still do, as a girl competing with the boys.
“It was intimidating at first,” said Adamowski, who joined the Rams as a seventh-grader and left that program as one of the Big 10’s best players. “I was the youngest on the team and the only girl, but as I grew, that actually made me a stronger player. I couldn’t keep up as far as distance, but I was scoring very well. My senior year, I was our No. 1 player.”
Fast-forward to last fall, when Adamowski’s No. 1 player at Albany Academy, Kennedy Swedick, earned medalist honors at the first Section II championship tournament and state qualifier for girls. Earlier that fall, the Suburban Council fielded enough teams to play a complete Section II girls’ league schedule for the first time.
“The fact that we had girls playing for a championship, that was awesome to see,” Dale Long, who coaches both the Saratoga Catholic girls’ and boys’ teams, said of the season-closing event.
“When we started our program 20 years ago, the hope was that this would occur in Section II,” Holy Names coach Jim Toomey said.
As a COVID-19 safety measure, all Section II championship events, including the girls’ golf event, were called off this fall season.
“In time, the numbers and competitiveness will lend itself to a Class A tournament and a Class BCD tournament like the boys started with,” Troy said.
This year saw the Foothills Council conduct its first season-ending championship, which Queensbury won, and was made possible with the addition of the Broadalbin-Perth, Johnstown and Gloversville teams. The Suburban Council held its second girls’ league championship, and Shenendehowa defended its title there while completing an unbeaten season.
“All good stuff,” Troy said.
Adamowski echoed that sentiment.
“When I was growing up, it was, ‘She’s the one who plays golf,'” Adamowski said. “Now there are so many girls who play, and that’s so cool for me to see.”
In addition to the 56 students who played on 12 girls’ golf teams last fall, Troy said there were 50 more who competed on boys teams. She was still awaiting girls’ participation numbers for this falls’ 16 girls’ teams and others who swung clubs alongside boys, but anticipates a significantly higher total in part because some schools did not offer sports like soccer, volleyball and cross country due to the COVID-19 concerns and some youngsters who would have played them turned to golf.
“Golf is one of the few sports you could play,” Troy said.
The OESJ boys’ team included five girls, four of whom played volleyball in previous falls. Holy Names’ roster of 14 included eight girls who would have played a sport other than golf.
“I think girls’ golf was growing before COVID, but trying to give a positive side of COVID, it did grow the sport,” Adamowski said. “It’s something we didn’t anticipate, that silver lining.”
Adamowski believes some golf newcomers will stay with the game and forgo their previous sport, some will go back to their previous sport, and some will opt to continue playing golf and play their previous sport, too, if their school allows doubling up.
“I wouldn’t say all girls who played COVID golf will come back again,” Adamowski said. “I definitely think some of them will.”
“In many of the leagues, you can do two sports [in the same season],” Troy said. “You state in the beginning [of a season] your primary and secondary sport. I am a proponent of that. If you can expose a kid to a variety of sports, you can do nothing but help them in the future.”
Saratoga Central Catholic junior Ella Constantino is one of her school’s golfers that plays volleyball. Next fall, her hope is to play both golf and volleyball for her school.
“We’re going to balance it all out,” she said. “Golf, volleyball and academics.”
Western Athletic Conference girls’ golf coordinator and OESJ boys’ coach T.J. Jordan is hoping the future includes girls teams in his league.
“There’s definitely a fair amount of girls [already playing] in our league. I would hope someday down the road,” Jordan said.
Troy said some girls from the Wasaren League and Adirondack League will likely be playing golf with boys in the “Fall II” season that is scheduled to be held in March, but wasn’t certain if any schools from those leagues would be fielding girls’ teams. The Wasaren League (with the exception of Saratoga Central Catholic girls’ golf) and Adirondack League opted not to field any fall teams due to COVID-19 concerns.