Boys high school golf is officially a fall sport in Connecticut as teams began practice back on Aug. 16.
The CIAC voted down a proposal to force all teams to move to the fall in February, however, it allowed teams and leagues to decide which season it preferred to compete in. The Central Connecticut Conference, along with the FCIAC, South-West Conference and the Berkshire League decided to play during the fall.
With the new season a little more than a week old, local programs shared their thoughts on the decision.
“A lot of the coaches in the CCC were big believers in moving to the fall,” Newington boys coach Jayson Barbarotta said. “We knew that if we moved to the fall we'd be able to play more and courses would be open.”
One of the biggest downsides of spring golf is the time it takes for courses to get into playable shape. New England winters are rarely short and in turn, it delays golf season from starting on time, leaving athletes and coaches a limited time frame to work with once courses are back up and running.
Now that courses are already ready to go, the difference has been noticeable.
“The course is in the best possible condition so I think it's a really good decision,” Newington junior golfer Evan Oliver said. “It makes it easier for the boys and girls to get the practice needed.”
Barbarotta is also seeing an improvement in performance early on in the season compared to a spring start as the amount of practice time has yielded positive results.
“Early scores are better and it's been a huge bonus for us,” Barbarotta said.
Attracting more golfers in general played into the decision to switch seasons as well as programs like New Britain are trying to add more talent.
Joe Vaverchak's squad only has a couple of players that have prior experience in Xavier Goode and Matt Skutnik, but welcomed a handful of new freshmen this year.
“From my experience, I think we always should have been playing in the fall,”Vaverchak said. “It's a lot easier playing now in the fall. The kids are really looking forward to playing.
“You can't learn golf in two weeks,” Vaverchak said. “You hit one good shot and you want to come back. We're teaching them from the basics, Everything from using the golf club. It's basic but I love it.
Newington was experiencing a similar trend as its numbers dwindled, but the switch has brought an influx of new players for the Nor'easters.
“We had a total of 12 kids that tried out and we had even more that were interested,” Oliver said. “I saw a huge increase in interest.”
“We had four returning players but now we have 10,” Barbarotta said. “We haven't had that in probably four to five years. Evan has recruited half the guys that came out for the fall.”
Throw in the amount of quality golf courses in the area and there's reason to believe starting in the fall can have some real impacts on area golf programs.
“You got Stanley Golf Course, one of the best golf courses in the state, that's where I want to try and build a program,” Vaverchak said.
Matches are set to begin Aug. 30 while the championships are scheduled for Oct. 18, just before the winter weather usually rolls in.
“I'm hopeful the weather holds out,” Barbarotta said. “It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. The whole object is to grow the game for both boys and girls and I think it's on the right trajectory.”
Ryan Ames can be reached at 860-801-5094 or on Twitter @_RyanAmes.