ROACHDALE -- With the core of last year's North Putnam's golf team gone, first year head coach Nathan Martindale is unsure what the immediate future holds.
Martindale has the job of taking a young squad -- consisting of one junior, six sophomores and three freshmen -- and shaping them into a team that can compete against more seasoned competition.
The weather hasn't helped Martindale get the group up to speed. He noted it seems that for every day of practice they get in, they missed two. Not something a coach wants with an unproven team and Martindale acknowledged that the team might take some hits early.
"I've got one junior, six sophomores and three freshmen," Martindale commented. "We are really young. Four of those players have never picked up a golf club and played before. So this is going to be, especially early on in April and probably a little bit into May, a learning experience for them. Learning how to swing a golf club correctly, the rules, how to play in a match -- it's all going to be a learning experience."
The Cougar coach knows that the pressure will be riding on junior Brandon Volland and sophomores Colton Smith and Wes Detienne and he believes that they are ready for the challenge.
"Wes and Colton are going to be another two guys that are really going to have to score well for us to compete. Then we'll have a couple more sophomores that will round it out for us," Martindale said.
Posed the question of what the team needs to be focused on early, Martindale's response was universal for beginning golfers and veterans alike -- the short game and keeping a mental edge.
"I think the biggest for us is playing the short game around the green," Martindale commented. "The putting and chipping is something that we really need to improve on. Then just not letting a bad shot turn into six or seven bad shots and not getting frustrated. That's hard for an inexperienced team to really get a grasp on."
In the first few matches of the season, Martindale is interested to see how the team tackles the obstacles put before them. He hopes that when the difficulties arise the team is able to recognize and respond.
A coach can instruct a player the proper grip, a fluid swing and the way to stick the ball in the center of the green. What is more difficult is training them to keep their cool under pressure, but Martindale believes that is the role of the coach. When problems reveal themselves, the coach must be a peaceful presence for a young golfer.
"I think it's talking to them. Just being there as a cool and calm person to kind of relax them a little bit," Martindale said. "Between holes, if they have a bad hole, say 'Hey, relax, calm down, you're fine, it's no big deal; now go to the next one' and just get them up. You have to give them a calm perspective."
Martindale noted that due to the limited amount of practices, he hasn't set a bar for the team to achieve yet. Improving on a daily basis is something he hopes for and expects from his team.
Asked what he hopes to achieve throughout the season, improvement was first on the coach's list. He commented that if them team focuses on its improvement and puts forth the effort they could begin to make some noise as the season wears on.
"Like I said, getting better every week and then just competing in every match," Martindale said. "I would like to get in the top of the conference and I think if we keep working and keep getting better we have a chance at that. Then just getting better and getting ready for sectional and competing in the sectional."