BRISTOL - Tiger Woods once said "Golf is a lonely sport," and for New Britain's Xavier Goode, being out on his own Monday morning at the state tournament in tough conditions certainly added to the loneliness the sport can bring in big-time tournaments.
The outcome wasn't what he was looking for in a strong field of golfers in the CIAC's Div. I level. But, in the end, to be able to get there after missing the cut last year, it's a good feeling for him.
"Just not a good overall day," said Goode. "... It's a great feeling (to get here), ... to come back and do it again, make it by myself, it feels good."
Goode's day didn't go as planned, finishing tied for 47th at +17 over par (80) with a cold, windy day playing tricks with golfers all day at Chippanee Country Club in Bristol. Goode was the only player who played solo, without any teammates in the round, but had family following him throughout the 18-hole round.
Goode's determination to get better after being ".1 short last year" did not go unnoticed by his head coach.
"I just think it was phenomenal that he was able to achieve what he did this year," said New Britain head coach Joe Vaverchak. "I looked at his scores last year and he was in the 40 to 45 (shots per 9 holes) range, and this year he was at 35 to 40.
The improvement of a few strokes, and being consistent with it, started with taking the extra time to work on the driving range and after matches. A 'live and breathe golf' mentality was something Vaverchak mentioned, which helped earn him a spot at Monday's state meet.
"For anybody to improve like that, it's impressive. It didn't come easy for him. He's consistently every day at the range, after matches back hitting the balls," said Vaverchak. "... He lived and breathed golf. He accomplished what he wanted to and he's very consistent player, really his game has improved so much. I'm very proud of what he achieved this year for himself, his family and New Britain High School. ... To qualify as an individual, for this tournament, is pretty special."
The representation of Goode at state is big for not just himself, who said he's not ruling out opportunities to play golf collegiately, but also for the school's program. New Britain being represented at the state level hopefully will spurn some interest in younger golfers who wish to carve their own path in a similar nature to Goode's.
The interest in golf is already there, and it's coming from within the Goode family home. Vaverchak is hoping to add that to a freshman team of five that he thinks are going to grow and have a chance of competing well as a unit next fall.
"(Goode's) little brother is in eighth grade this year and he'll be playing golf for me this fall," said Vaverchak. "Hopefully it gets more momentum. This year, it was a fun year, ... five freshman kids who started. ... These freshman kids will develop and I think they'll target getting out after school. ... For my first year in golf, with a kid with the skills of Xavier's, it was pretty nice."
On pace to return to the boys program next year will be Liam Alape, Patrick Costa, Jacob Levesque, Werner Lynes and Brady Ostrout. Matthew Skutnik, a junior, missed some time due to COVID this year, but is estimated to return.
Goode mentioned he'll be part of the recruiting process with Vaverchak to help bring more boys to the program next fall, and mentioned he'll continue working with golf on the side while playing baseball for New Britain this spring.