By Matt Liebowitz
In the 13 years Coach Michael Fay has been leading the Williston boys varsity golf team, he has not had a team as ready, as confident, and mentally poised to contend for the championship at the upcoming 24-school Kingswood Invitational Tournament as this year’s squad.
“I think our chances are the best since I’ve started coaching varsity golf,” said Fay. The team has consistently placed in the top eight in the past 10 years at the tournament, scheduled for May 25 at Oak Ridge Golf Club in Agawam, Mass.
Fay has good reason to be confident; the golf team has a dominating 19-1 record. Because only three of the top players are graduating—Jacob Zaranek, Noah DeVos, and Nick Randolph—Fay’s crew is set up to succeed next year as well. It’s a good place to be, and speaks to the array of talent on the young team.
“I’ve never had a team with so much depth,” Fay said. “I could go to [the] 7, 8, and 9th [seated players on the team] and each of these guys has played in a varsity match or two. I think if we could put together two teams from our varsity, we’d have a winning season for both teams. We have that much depth right now.”
That arsenal of talent includes, in addition to Zaranek, DeVos, and Randolph, juniors Jack Phelan, Junya Ozaki, and Jake Durocher, sophomores Tyler Senecal, Owen Randolph, and Tom Lawry, and 8th grader Jack Fay. This year, the team averages a 78 in 18-hole matches and 39 in 9-hole matches.
Out of 10 events, five players have earned team medalist honors with lowest score at least once. The 9-hole match average for the top six golfers—Zaranek, Senecal, Randolph, Phelan, Ozaki, and Durocher—ranges between 38 and 41.
Zaranek and DeVos are the team’s graduating co-captains. Both said that despite the solo nature of the sport, the team members are always rooting for one another.
“It’s an individual game, but we’re definitely a team,” said Jacob Zaranek. “We definitely have good camaraderie at our practices and the bus rides there. It’s a fun team to be a part of; we’re all good friends, and it’s also fun to win together.”
A day student from South Deerfield, Jacob admitted that on qualifying days—practices at which the best score determines who will make the roster for the week’s matches—practice does get competitive. “We want to beat each other, but we also wish the best for each other,” he said.
Noah DeVos echoed his co-captain’s view of the team, and expressed his supreme confidence in the whole team, not just the top scorers.
“We can put absolutely anyone out there, and we’ll still do just as well,” he said. Noah believes the team will continue its success next year, after he graduates and heads to Northeastern University. His co-captain, Jacob Zaranek, will likely play at Fairfield University.
Both seniors play nearly every day over the summer at Crestview Country Club in Agawam, where Jacob’s dad, Michael, is the Head Golf Pro.
Fay has noticed the ease and relaxation at the core of his team’s competitiveness. “They’re a lot of fun,” he said. “They never really show much stress, and all have a great deal of confidence, not arrogance. They want to do their best for the team.”
Both Noah and Jacob credited Coach Fay with instilling in them and their teammates the mental prep to succeed. Fay admits he doesn’t tinker with his players’ swings, instead focusing his energy on course management, rules, and preparation. Though he keeps a low profile, Fay’s belief and support in his team makes a noticeable impact.
“Coach Fay is motivating, and never brings us down,” said Jacob Zaranek. “Even if we shoot a high score, he’s very positive.”
With only one loss and a high-performing team who all get along and support one another, Fay’s coaching style is clearly working.
“He’s never going to give a rousing pre-game speech; he’s not that type of guy,” Jacob said. “But he’ll never get down on you. That’s something I think a lot of coaches do, and it affects their players, when you feel you have to perform to get the coach’s respect.”