Jack Hardiman practices putting last week with the Gray-New Gloucester golf team at Spring Meadows Golf Course in Gray. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

GRAY — The Gray-New Gloucester golf team’s roster has increased in each of coach Wayne Martin’s season at the helm.

In 2019, the Patriots had 10 golfers. That number grew to 18 last year. This fall, they had 23 players sign up.

Senior Aubray Lincoln was surprised to hear about the this season’s large turnout.

“I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing, I didn’t think that many people would play,’” Lincoln said. “I love to see how many people have come out here to play, giving their time to the sport because it’s a hard sport to play. It’s very aggravating.”

Martin said that there are a few factors for why kids are turning to golf.

“The big reason is the past couple of years you have seen golf get more popular, kids are gravitating more towards a lifetime sport, and individual sports are pretty popular right now,” Martin said. “It also has something to do with the kids we had here. We have had some pretty good leadership and some kids that have done pretty well. Sometimes when your program does pretty (well), it tends to spark interest.”

Ian Libby played soccer when he was a freshman. He thought making the switch to golf would help with the other sport he plays, baseball.

“I started last year — my sophomore year — because I played soccer before that and I wanted a change of pace,” Libby said. “I wasn’t vibing with soccer and I wanted to find something that was kind of related to baseball swing-wise because I am a pretty good baseball player.”

Martin believes kids are playing more golf in the Gray-New Gloucester area, and all it takes is one person to play before their friends want to get involved in the sport or with the high school team.

For instance, senior Anthony Prescott recruited Lincoln.

“Aubray (Lincoln) is one of my good friends. He did not play (our) freshman year and he came in sophomore year,” Prescott said.

Lincoln played golf prior to high school, but he didn’t join the team until his sophomore season.

“I have always been playing, and I felt like it was a good opportunity to get more playing time, and it’s also free, too — so I don’t have to spend any money,” Lincoln said. “It’s just nice to play, and I just love the sport.”

Some of the Gray-NG players have become members of Spring Meadows, the team’s home course, so they can play all summer long.

“Sophomore year, I was told I would be the (fourth or fifth) player in the matches,” Prescott said. “So, I really decided to buckle down and get out as much as I can, so I can lower my score.”

Libby decided to purchase a membership when he started hitting the ball with the sweet spot of the club more frequently.

“Golf is not a cheap sport to get into,” Libby said. “Once you play a couple of rounds and hit a few pure shots, you (get) hooked. Those few (pure) shots when you are a beginner, they just feel amazing.”

The 23 players this year are divided into three different groups: varsity, junior varsity and those who are learning the sport.

“Developmentally, we are trying to progress kids as (well) as (we) can,” Martin said. “There are kids on our varsity team now who as freshmen didn’t know what end of the golf club to hold.”

Aubray Lincoln putts on the Spring Meadows practice green last week. Teammate Jack Hardiman putts in the background. They are two of the 23 members of the Gray-New Gloucester golf team. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Martin and the coaching staff use different drills at the driving range and on the practice green to keep the athletes engaged. The primary goal of the drills is to help the players develop a routine. For example, one drill involves them hitting 36 balls with each club in their bags.

“We try to have something for everyone,” Martin said. “We have three coaches, myself, Brain Pelletier ,who’s more of a swing coach, and we have a volunteer assistant, Gary Pollard. There’s always supervision, and Spring Meadows is great, too, because I don’t know too many golf courses that can accommodate that many kids at any given time.”

The varsity players can be pretty competitive, with everyone in the group capable of shooting in the low 40s.

“I feel like we are all pretty close together scores-wise,” Libby said. “No one feels left out, we all keep up with each other. We play matches during practice against each other sometimes for some fun competition. That seems to keep the competitive juices flowing.”

Lincoln said that he tells the development group to keep working on improving on their golf skills and to not be fazed by the frustrating days.

“I try to help them better their game and tell them, don’t get mad because I get mad, too, and I have been playing for a while,” Lincoln said. “It’s a tough game, there’s no way of getting around that anger, but I tell them to go out there and have fun.”

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