Montclair Kimberley golf: Youthful team, tough SEC American schedule this spring
The Montclair Kimberley golf team had a very good 2022 season, as it came home with a share of the Super Essex Conference Liberty Division championship.
But with that accolade in their pocket, the Cougars were moved up to the SEC's top division, the American.
It could not have come at a worse time for the program.
This spring, the Cougars face the best golf teams in Essex County. But the squad is very inexperienced, as it lost golfers not only to graduation, but also to transfers and to players choosing not to come out for the team, which finished with a 12-3 record last season.
The Cougars started the season 2-4, with the 189-190 win over West Essex on April 10 and a 194-198 victory over Verona on April 4.
Head coach Jeff Beer said that even if the Cougars had some or all of their returning starters, they might have the same record at the end of the season against the top teams in Essex. In 2020-21, when MKA was in the SEC American, it lost every match in the division, and the Cougars had a more experienced group of golfers.
For Beer the progress of his squad will be measured in individual scores as the season progresses, as opposed to whether the team wins or loses in the early going.
"They know what the situation is," he said. "We did that last year (win the division), and those teams (Liberty Division) are ones that we are competitive against."
But he added that he’s happy with his players’ attitude.
"I really like that they enjoy playing golf," the coach said. "I have had very good teams and there are days where they don't enjoy playing golf."
Montclair Kimberley has only two golfers who have experience, sophomore Griffin Lalonde and senior Jack Muscarelle.
The rest of the team is new to high school golf, and in some cases to golf, period.
Some of the top golfers among the newcomers are sophomore Nate Conforti and seniors Rob Lombardi and Leigh Wilkin.
Lalonde is one of the top golfers in the county, while Muscarelle's first season in high school golf was last year.
The coach said Lalonde has put in the work in the off-season. "Griffin is a dedicated golfer and has worked hard at it," he said. "He's a 12-month-a-year golfer and has significant aspirations … I know he can be an extremely good golfer."
Lalonde's best score in the early going has been a 36, one over par, in a tri-meet with Montclair and West Essex that the Cougars split, defeating West Essex while falling to Montclair at Montclair Golf Club on April 10.
One of Muscarelle’s best qualities is leadership. "He helps out with all the kids on the team," Beer said.
The coach hopes that many of his golfers will put in some time on the sport in the off-season.
"I tell the kids and the parents that the deciding factor is if the kids want to get good at golf," he said.