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HHS fields first girls golf team

by | May 16, 2023 | Sports

HHS girls golf

Senior captains Emma Canestrari and Lindsay Jong previously played for the boys golf team before taking a chance and helping to start the girls program. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Hopkinton High School has long had one of the top high school boys golf programs in the state. Now this spring, for the first time, the Hillers are fielding a girls golf team. Coach Bill Phaneuf wasn’t sure what kind of turnout to expect, and the 19-player roster he has exceeded even his most optimistic hopes.

“We had a way bigger turnout than we ever thought; 19 girls is literally unheard of,” Phaneuf said. “We play teams sometimes that are struggling to put seven or eight in a match, and I thought that’s where we might be.”

When Phaneuf, who also coaches the boys team, reached out to the Hillers community, he encouraged beginners to come out for the team. Some of his players did not have golf clubs and had never played the game, but he stressed that all were welcome.

“We encouraged them to come out, but we told them you might not get any match play and you might not get any on-course practice time, you have to show some ability to hit a ball before we can get you on the course,” Phaneuf said. “We are going to get everyone as much experience as possible, and they are all still here, no one has dropped off.”

The first HHS girls golf team is a few years in the making. Phaneuf first discussed the idea with Hopkinton administration when he took over the boys team four years ago, but the pandemic put the plans on the shelf until last year, when the effort was renewed to get a team on the course this spring.

Senior captains Emma Canestrari and Lindsay Hong played for Phaneuf with the boys program for two years before opting to pass on last fall’s season in hopes that the girls team would come to fruition this spring.

“It was a risk,” Phaneuf said. “If we had a total of four girls come out, we could not have fielded a team. But they chose to basically start and head up this first-year program. They are super leaders.”

Phaneuf said he encouraged the duo to take on this pioneering role with the new program.

“There is only going to be one first team in Hopkinton girls golf, and this is it, it will never happen again,” he said. “They liked that, and they liked the idea of being captains and leaders.”

They are leading a team that is showing significant promise for the future. Freshman Leah Hong (Lindsay’s sister) has been the team’s No. 3 player. Phaneuf said he met Hong three years ago and was impressed by her swing.

“She has a really beautiful swing,” he said. “I told her, ‘Keep playing, and I will see you in a couple of years.’ I think she is going to be a star for us starting next year, she will probably be the No. 1 player.”

Another freshman, Ella Fowler, also is showing promise and athleticism and the ability to hit some great shots on the course. Junior Allie Sheehan has also been playing in the team’s top five and figures to take over more of a leadership role next year.

Hopkinton is playing in what Phaneuf described as a makeshift league of programs in the area that have the ability to put a girls team on the course. With such a large roster, Phaneuf already is thinking about the future of the program and continuing to have more success in a golf-crazed town.

“It’s going to be really cool,” he said.

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