Greenwich girls shine throughout entire golf season

The Greenwich High School girls golf team poses for a photo with the state championship trophy. From left is Mana Fujiwara, Alexandra Sazhin, Pamela Jennemyr, Catherine McEvoy (medalist), Kendyl Nethercott and head coach Marie Shimchick.

The Greenwich High School girls golf team poses for a photo with the state championship trophy. From left is Mana Fujiwara, Alexandra Sazhin, Pamela Jennemyr, Catherine McEvoy (medalist), Kendyl Nethercott and head coach Marie Shimchick.

Greenwich High head coach Marie Shimchick was hoping that this year her girls golf team would live up to the high expectations that she had at the beginning of the season.

However, it took a handshake from Berlin head coach Jim Barnes to really let things sink in that Big Red had quite the memorable season.

For the first time since becoming an officially sanctioned sport by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the Greenwich High School girls golf team reigned supreme at the state level.

“With a shotgun format, you really have no sense of how things are going,” Shimchick said. “It took a while for the last few scores to come in. I knew Catherine (McEvoy) and Alexandra (Sazhin) had great scores, but you need four solid scores. I knew the pressure was on because Berlin can really shoot low and the same thing with Staples. When you’re still waiting for those others to come in, the stress level rises. Once I did the numbers and realized we won, it was a great moment. I was so proud of the girls and what they accomplished.”

The Lady Cardinals upended Berlin High School, a team that’s won the state championship three years in a row, for the CIAC girls golf championship. Competing at the Orange Hills Country Club, Greenwich came away with a score of 335, 11 strokes better than perennial powers Berlin.

“For a long time it just felt really good to be right there,” Shimchick said. “We’ve been ranked in the top 10 since we had a team. In our first year we were ranked 11th out of 12 teams and finished 10th. The next few years we have been in the top three. It’s been a great progression where we were really close. We got to second last year and it was great because we got a trophy. However, that doesn’t compare to actually winning the championships.”

In addition to the overall championship, GHS golfer McEvoy came away with the individual championship, dominating the competition and shooting a 2-under par 72 on the day.

McEvoy upended Daniel Hand’s Gabrielle Martin and E.O. Smith’s Karina Larson, as they both tied for second with a 4-over par 78.

“That was pretty amazing,” Shimchick said. “When I saw her on the course, she was pretty calm. She had a tough pitch on the third shot at the 15th hole and drained a 30-foot putt to save par. When I saw that, I knew something special was happening. The amazing part is that she started the championship with a double bogey. She’s so consistent and works very hard on making sure that she can replicate her shots in really tight moments. Her putting is really consistent.”

In addition to McEvoy, Greenwich struck again with another stellar performance Sazhin came in the clubhouse with a 6-over par 80 and tied Ridgefield’s Rachel Corry and Avon’s Marissa Grillo for fourth place overall.

“Alexandra is so consistent,” Shimchick said. “She was unfazed by the pressure and was in control nearly the entire way. I was really happy for her because she was able to shine in the FCIAC tournament and Catherine was able to shine at States. It was wonderful that both had their moment.”

In addition to the Greenwich duo of McEvoy and Sazhin, the Lady Cardinals had plenty of help from other athletes en route to the championship. Kendyl Nethercott finished tied for 17th overall with a 16-over par 90, while Pamela Jennemyr wasn’t far behind, finishing fourth on the team and tied for 23rd overall with a 19-over par 93.

Rounding out the five for Big Red was Mana Fujiwara, who finished tied for 65th with a 109 during the tournament.

“The kids were excited because we now get a banner in the ‘A’ gym at the high school,” Shimchick said. “We get to have a banner with all the other teams in the school that have won state titles before. When you walk into the glass corridor to enter the school, there will be a banner there showing we won a championship and that is cool because the kids pass that every single day. Visitors see that every single day. Hopefully that will be a good recruitment tool because there are a lot of golfers at the school.”

The state championship victory came shortly after Big Red also captured the FCIAC championship at Fairfield’s Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course, holding off stiff competition from Staples and Danbury to finish with a team total of 342. The Wreckers were the next closest, grabbing second with a total of 354.

At FCIACs, it was Sazhin’s turn to shine, as she was a medalist for Greenwich and the top golfer on the day with a 1-over par 74. Rachel Corry from Ridgefield was second, three strokes behind.

McEvoy was second on the Lady Cards, grabbing a 6-over 79. Jennemyr was the third best on Greenwich with a 92 and Nethercott took fourth with a 97.

Throughout the season, Greenwich has been a team on a mission. After an opening season loss to Danbury High School, the Lady Cardinals scorched the competition, winning 12 consecutive matches against teams like Staples, Trumbull, Ridgefield, Danbury, Fairfield Ludlowe, Fairfield Warde and New Canaan until they fell to Staples the second time Greenwich saw them on May 22.

GHS rebounded by smashing Joel Barlow to finish the regular season 13-2.

During that run, Greenwich’s average score was 176. They totaled 26 birdies, 168 pars and only averaged 66.87 putts per match.

For Shimchick, she was able to get those types of results from a team that only lost one player to graduation this year, senior captain McKenzie Freder.

“It’s great having all these players come back next year,” Shimchick said. “For me, I’m going to ask around other coaches in the state to see how they stay at the top. It’s tough to get there in the first place and harder to climb back up that mountain a year later. We are going to have a lot of team trying to beat us next year.

Throughout the season, the GHS duo of McEvoy and Sazhin dominated the competition. McEvoy was named to the All-FCIAC First Team, the 2014 CHSCA All-State Player of the Year, a CIAC tournament medalist and qualified for the New England Tournament.

Sazhin, one of the two captains on Big Red this year, was also named to the All-FCIAC First Team and was named to the CHSCA All-State Team. Like McEvoy, Sazhin also qualified for the New England Tournament.

While she didn’t see a lot of time on the scoring sheet, Shimchick said that the girls golf team wouldn’t be as successful this year without its other captain, Freder, on the squad.

“She has contributed so much to the personality of the team,” Shimchick said. “She’s the one that the kids go to when they want to talk about anything they feel like they need to talk about. She’s the go-to person when it comes to talking to the team and is the reason the chemistry here is so strong.”
Shimchick said that Freder’s personality and her commitment to the team made her one of the strongest members of the GHS girls golf program.

“Her ability just to let things go was incredible,” Shimchick said. “That was a really important lesson for the kids to see and witness. I learned just how committed she is to dance and it’s even more amazing that she was still able to do everything with golf and everything that we asked her to do. She’s amazing. She teaches dance, takes dance classes and she was on the dance team, but still gave golf all of her attention during the season and did everything we could ask from a captain. It’s really incredible.”

While a lot of practice, hard work and dedication to golf went into Greenwich’s conference and state titles, Shimchick said that GHS wouldn’t be as strong if it wasn’t for the golf courses in the area that gave a helping hand.

“They gave us time to practice and some time for matches,” Shimchick said. “Innis Arden, Millbrook, Stanwich, The Griff all were great to us. The ability to play on all these courses makes us more prepared for our away matches and it keeps us sharp.”

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