BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Up on the Brandywine putting green last week, the sound of laughter was interspersed with the tapping of golf balls.
“We have all bonded,” said Charlie Robertson, a senior on the Anthony Wayne High School boys golf team. “So we don’t get too nervous when we go out. We just go out and have fun. And when you’re having fun, there’s no pressure and you play better.”
That philosophy has paid off for the team, which was named Northern Lakes League champion for the third year. The team has won 23 straight league matches in those three years, said coach Pat Phillips.
“This is the best team in school history,” he said. “And the numbers back it up.”
The team’s 18-hole average is 77 and junior Logan Sutto’s 69.8 average this season earned him Golfer of the Year for the NLL.
“The NLL just started the Player of the Year a few years ago and Logan has won the last two years. He’s the first for Anthony Wayne,” Phillips said.
Logan’s season has included 43 birdies and two eagles, as he has hit the fairways 50 percent of the time.
Encouraged by his grandfather Ed Sutto and his parents Jim and Cindy, Logan began playing golf at age 5. He’s on the course six days a week and knows his game. His strengths are wedges and irons, Logan said. His weakness – being too aggressive.
“When I’m playing, I like to play with a lot of confidence, so I will almost always take the aggressive route unless the hole makes you play conservative,” he said.
On the course, he ignores how the other team is doing and doesn’t even focus on his own score. Even if he isn’t at his best at one hole, Logan said he won’t let it get to him.
“I love the challenge of coming back, so if I have a bad hole it motivates me to have one good hole and I’m right back where I was,” he said.
While he and his teammates were sweating it out last week at 85 degrees, Logan said he prefers playing in the heat rather than the cold. The wind, which bothers some, works to his advantage.
“I love to play in the wind because I can control my ball flight extremely well, so it challenges me to hit shots and keep the wind from hitting it.”
Getting to the No. 1 spot in the league takes a lot of practice and support from teammates, including Charlie, who is ranked No. 2 with an 18-hole average of 73.
During the September 19 league tournament, AW golfers took the top six spots out of 48 players. Logan shot a 65 and Charlie a 69.
“I knew Logan would post a good round,” Charlie said. “It was nice to earn second.”
Charlie first began playing as a freshman with encouragement from his older brother, Joe, and his dad, Scott. Each year he’s improved by a few shots. He credits the team camaraderie and playing almost every day. His brother, Ted, a sophomore, is also on the team and both play at White Pines often.
Logan prefers Inverness Country Club locally, but the toughest course he faced was Innisbrook Copperhead in Tampa, Fla.
Playing a variety of courses is essential to building confidence and skills, Phillips said, and many of the team members traveled around the Midwest and even to Las Vegas and Florida to play in tournaments with tougher courses and competition.
“They played tougher courses and had better competition and that’s good,” Phillips said.
He also tried to make the schedule tougher this year – playing Akron Archbishop Hoban, Cleveland St. Ignatius and Cincinnati St. Xavier.
It’s playing together as an entire team in the offseason and on days off that’s paid off, Phillips believes.
Logan, Charlie, Ted, Ian Briars, Myles Murphy, Michael Distefano, Avery Watson and Cam DeVault get together regularly.
“Their idea of hanging out is going to the golf course and playing golf together. That’s definitely their No. 1 priority,” Phillips said.
“My best teams have done that in the past. It doesn’t happen every year – to have eight kids who just want to golf all the time. These guys worked incredibly hard over the summer to make themselves better.”
When Phillips took over the coaching position from Steve Mossing in 2008, the golf team took the NLL title two years in a row.
“Now those guys are calling me to tell me, ‘These guys are way better than we were,’” Phillips said. “Some of those guys, like Josh Bialecki, played in college.”
Both Logan and Charlie hope to continue their golf careers at the college level as well.
Their first goal, however, is to get to states. The team needs to finish in the top five in sectionals on Tuesday, October 4 and repeat as district champion the next week.
“If we can repeat as district champion, then we will play in the Division I state tournament on October 21-22, which is the ultimate goal for our team,” Phillips said.