GUILDERLAND — A new era in Section II athletics began Thursday when host Guilderland squared off against Niskayuna in the first-ever girls’ golf match at Western Turnpike Golf Club.
The historical significance didn’t mean much to the young competitors, but the opportunity for the girls to finally play against their peers in a comfortable atmosphere was lauded by the respective coaches, Andy Ryan of Guilderland and Niskayuna’s Ben Smith, who each currently coach both the boys’ and girls’ teams at their schools.
“The league [the Suburban Council] is probably more concerned with the wins and losses of these teams, but we are more interested in how many girls compete and get the opportunity to play,” said Smith.
“The most important thing for me is the camaraderie the girls will have with their teammates now. That’s the key,” added Ryan. “This day feels great. Knowing that we are part of the beginning of this movement is special. We’ve got to thank [Shaker boys’ coach] Mike Cavotta and [Section II golf coordinator] Eileen Troy for getting this off the ground,” Ryan said. “Growing pains will happen, but girls’ golf will be a legitimate sport at our schools very soon.”
The official record shows Guilderland winning the match by forfeit, because Niskayuna had only one girl competing on Thursday, Emily Shim of Iroquois Middle School. Section II rules stipulate that there must be at least two girls competing to have an official match. If one school has two and the other has more than two, then only two players from each school will have their scores count.
Smith is a little disappointed in the turnout for his Silver Warriors, especially considering the golf tradition at Niskayuna.
“Golf has always been strong here, but we don’t have all the support here from all the girls yet. We were trying to get the girls to come out. We had five to nine girls originally set to sign up, but it didn’t materialize. But this is a great starting point. We will build the program from here, and I’m sure more girls will want to play,” he said.
Ryan has five girls on his team, and he’s thrilled.
“I’m very happy with five. We will expand from this. We’re thinking this could be a second sport for many of our girls. I’m sure it will be accepted by the girls socially very soon,” Ryan said. “Plus, like I’ve said before, the camaraderie of having girls competing with girls is much better. Before, you might have had a seventh- or eighth-grade girl riding the bus on the way to a match with junior and senior boys. The girl would feel out of place. I’m not sure how everything will work now. I know the boys’ and girls’ teams can practice together now. We will evaluate how we handle everything at the end of the year.”
Competing for Guilderland in its very first girls’ match were seventh-grader Jane Fanning, 10h-grader Caroline Jameson, ninth-grader Megna Naidu and ninth-grader Bridget Burke. Naidu was the medalist with a 47. Fanning shot a 57, and Jameson carded a 59.
“It is such a great experience to finally have our own girls’ team,” said Naidu. “I’ve been playing golf for eight years, and I’ve always wanted to play on a girls’ team. But I’ve played against the boys for a long time now, so it didn’t bother me that much being the only girl so often. Still, this should be a lot of fun.”
The 4-foot-3 Shim was the only player who competed for the Silver Warriors, but Smith thinks he will have at least one more player in future matches.
“Emily Shim packs a punch,” Smith said.
”I’m just so happy to be playing golf,” said Shim.
Meanwhile, Shaker and Colonie also played their first girls’ varsity match at Town of Colonie’s green nine. Shaker won by forfeit, because Colonie had only one player competing. Emily Bette led Shaker with a 59. Helen Park, Clare Cunningham and Grace Papa were also in the inaugural lineup for the Blue Bison, coached by Siobhan Matrose. Sierra Wheeler, daughter of former Schenectady Classic champion Mike Wheeler, was the medalist with a 43 for Colonie.