By MATT PARRINO
The Tonawanda News
— Golf may be the ultimate individual sport. A quick glance at golf teams across the area will usually reveal a star player or two atop their rosters.
But that’s not the case at North Tonawanda and Lumberjacks coach Paul Becigneul thinks his team’s unity is a result of equality up and down the roster.
“We graduated four seniors last year and those were some big shoes to fill,” he said. “The first few matches were a bit shaky but as (the team has) gotten more comfortable they’ve slowly shown improvement.”
The Jacks (6-6) started out 1-4 on the season and Becigneul braced himself and his team for a tough stretch to close out the year. But something happened after a loss to Niagara-Wheatfield on Sept. 17 — this year’s seniors stepped up to help NT win five of its last seven.
Andrew Walck, Matt Noaks, Chris Jurczak and Alex Behr lead the Jacks by committee. Each golfer brings something different and valuable to a team that has been searching for an identity since it teed off this season.
Walck is the fierce competitor who hates to lose; Noakes is the easy going, ex-football player who can hit the cover off the ball; Jurczak helps everyone find the fun in the game and takes the time to be a good teammate; Behr is the jokester who keeps everyone loose even when someone hits one in the drink.
“Each one of them has their own personality that people gravitate toward,” Becigneul said.
All four seniors play other sports, but have built a home together on the golf course. It’s a place where they feel comfortable despite the stressful moments that come along with the game.
Walck said that one of the most difficult aspects is the mental challenges that exhaust even the most gifted golfer.
Confidence is the key to a strong outing in match play, according to Becigneul. If a golfer steps foot on the first tee and isn’t focused and sure of himself, things are usually going to go south very quickly. Walck has been on the team all four of his high school years and said the mental parts of the game are taxing.
“That’s one of the things that kills me,” he said. “When you have to go up to a shot and wait around, you’re just thinking ‘what’s the worst possible situation or what good can happen.’ You have to fight that and think about that one shot. It’s a mental game and you have to be clear mentally.”
Becigneul echoed Walck’s feelings and said he’s constantly working on mental toughness with his team.
“A lot of the younger kids, if they hit a bad shot you can read it in their body language,” he said. “We work on that — that the only shot that counts is the next one. I try and pound that into their head.”
Three weeks ago Becigneul never could have envisioned his team competing in every match, but now expects nothing less down the stretch. Walck thinks his coach’s supposition is right on par.
“I feel like we really have the potential to be a good team,” Walck said. “It’s high school and we like to have fun and goof around, but if we all focus we can shoot well and be in a match with anybody.”
Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda Sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.