by Andrew Garda

The Montclair High School golf team ended their season on a high note, capturing the NJSIAA North 1, Group 4 Sectional Title.

Head coach Kenneth Schnitzer did feel the squad was capable of more, however.

“Winning the section was great, but we didn’t make it to the tournament of champions,” Schnitzer said on a recent phone call. “It was definitely a season of ups and downs, our conference record could have been a little bit better. There were times we played really well, and times we didn’t.”

Consistency was problematic for the team, said Schnitzer.

“There were some games we shot below 160, and other games we struggled in matches,” he explained. “We had a couple of heartbreaks along the way. We lost to a couple of teams by less than three strokes but we played well. So those kind of hurt.”

So while Schnitzer loved that the team won the Sectional title, he felt that their 8-8 record could have been better, and the team could have made the Meet of Champions.

Still, this was a team that saw players step into leadership roles this season, whether they were senior captains like Alexander Fall and Matthew Miller, or juniors such as Max Sorger and Jack Nevins.

“Having Max and Jack, who were playing phenomenally for us since they were freshman, was a huge asset. And a couple of guys like Will Buttner, who’s a senior, really worked hard last summer and you could see he really played a lot better this year. One of the other sophomores, Collin Scheffler, also became a really important piece of the puzzle. He vastly improved from last year to this year as well,” said Schnitzer.

There were some surprises as well, like sophomore Aidan Walker, who didn’t play at all last year.

“It was a pleasant surprise to find out he was a golfer,” Schnitzer said.

The experience Walker got on the course this year will pay dividends next season.

Schnitzer tried hard to make sure that while the team was always in position to win now, they were also building to the future. That meant getting young players on the course when the situation allowed for it.

“It all depends on the opponent,” he said. “I don’t want to take anybody lightly,  but we had crossover matches with one of the other divisions, where the teams weren’t very strong. So that gave me the opportunity to play some of the other guys and get them into a rhythm.”

That’s how Schnitzer has molded his teams in the past, and it has given him a steady stream of players ready to pick up the mantle from departing seniors.

“That’s what I did with Lex and Matt when they first started, with Will when he came on, and with Collin last year as well,” Schnitzer said. “I was just getting them some experience so they can see what it’s like because it’s hard to describe [the experience] to somebody unless they’ve been in it.”

With the season over, Schnitzer’s team will head off on their own to play this summer. Many high school teams have a deal with county courses for high schoolers to pay lower greens fees to play. While they do that, Schnitzer will be thinking about what the team could look like in 2020.

More than anything, he feels like the team is in good shape to reload quickly.

“We’ve got some freshmen that came up who will I think will play a bigger role next year as they get a little bit older and get more experience under their belt.”