Westport (May 8) Patty Kondub exudes the kind of enthusiasm good coaches seem born with and great teams thrive on.
The idea that the 2020 high school golf season might be cancelled or that pandemic restrictions might preclude practice and matches, did not sit well with Staples High’s version of Geno A. She embraced the new normal.
Welcome to the Staples High School Girls Golf Team virtual season.
“We’ve been working harder than ever,” says Kondub, who for weeks has put together 4 pm “practices" that include video tips, practice assignments and rules sessions, all over the internet, for her team of 25 (a record). “I’m trying to teach the kids that mindset. This is no time to stop. You keep working. You keep going.”
Kondub, a Staples and UConn grad, was still going last week, the day after the School Board (thanks to much intervention by parents), had decided to pay coaches this season, when we met her filming a tip under the spruce trees along No. 7 at the team’s home course, Longshore Park.
The fact that the CIAC had chosen to cancel competition this spring and that championship would not be played—Staples finished 4th last year— seemed to make no difference.
“This tip is about taking your medicine when you’re in trouble,” Kondub told us. With a friend taping on her phone, Kondub pitched out sideways. “So they’ll have a video of me doing a drill, say, 5 times, and then their job is to send one back with five shots of them doing the drill. Reactions, for the most part, have been have been positive. “Some are dressed like golfers, some in bare feet, but that’s a chance to teach, too. ‘Sorry coach, forgot my glove.’ Hey, doing these [assignments] the right way is all part of it.”
Coach Patty, as the players call her, was thrilled last week when the CIAC ruled that coaches, normally restricted from meeting with players during the off-season, could organize practices this summer. “Great News!!!” she texted when that decision came down.
The players have taken their medicine with like enthusiasm. “I was really looking forward to my senior season, since we have a really strong team,” says Deniz Elden, one the Wrecker captains, who will attend American University in the fall. “Coach Patty’s drills,” she says” have been very helpful. “Even though the season is over, I am very excited to be able to play over the summer with some of my teammates and coaches,” says Elden.
Longshore Park will open on the Friday the 15th, but the Staples virtual season started back on April 6 with a Facebook Live kick off meeting and pep talk. On April 7 the assignment was to watch a YouTube video on putting and then the coach’s video drill, and then replicate it. April 8 was a live workout, with discussion of fitness and stretching. April 9 Konbud posted an out-of-date rules video that no one caught, another teaching moment. April 13 live workout. April 14 chipping lessons. April 15 TPI and Pilates. April 16 featured Nesko Elden, Deniz’ mom, and an expert on nutrition.
That was just the first two weeks. And the routine has continued, including live practices Mondays and Wednesdays on Facebook Live in which coach leads golf specific fitness workouts. Players follow and comment.
Though Longshore was closed, Kondub told her players that besides outdoor short game practice, “walking Longshore’s front 9 with a knapsack of books or weights,” would be a good idea. “Fresh air and sunshine are important emotionally, too, as we all know.”
Staples lost No. 1 Sofia Sarrazin, the 2019 Borck Memorial Champion, to Hamden Hall this year, but expected a strong competitive season. Matches are no more, but most of the Wreckers will play when the course opens in a week or so. They plan a team awards banquet, too, even if it has to be virtual. Which is how the team photo was put together, with some 27 tiny head shots, including those of assistant coaches Liz Fry and Maureen Fontana. Most can’t wait to get out and put some of Coach Kondub’s drills into practice.
“It will be a way to make up for [what we’ve lost] this season,” says Deniz Elden.
In the team photo: Top row, left to right: Brianna Dwyer, Deniz Elden, Claudia Fernandez, Maya Stutttard, Meher Bhullar, Merin McCallum, Linnea Jagenberg, Camryn Zukowski. Second row from top: Lizzie Kuehndorf, Claire Gordy, Leni Lemcke, Amanda Green, Chelsea Cuseo, Elle Laub, Viola Geismann, Shira Zeiberg. Third row: Rachel Greenberg, Sydney Chinitz, Ellery Vishno, Reilly McGeehan, Keeva Boyle, coaches Patty Kondub, Liz Fry, Maureen Fontana. Bottom row: Isabelle Hekmat, Lila Sunshine, Olivia Katz, Madelyn Berk.
Below, Coach Kondub on the rules.