Huntington Catholic starting golf team from the ground up

Danielle Albertson (right), coach of the newly-formed Huntington Catholic School golf team, helps sixth-grader Sam Mickley with his tee shot in the team’s practice area set up in the school’s gym. Photo by Steve Clark.

"We have a ‘hole-y' net; it's been blessed," jokes Darwin Stoffel.

Stoffel is tending to a new hole that's formed in netting used at the golf practice area set up in the Huntington Catholic School gym. The area, which contains six putting greens, four chipping stations and several places to hit tee shots into a net that's stretched halfway across one side of the gym, is new, just like the team currently using it.

Stoffel, the team's instructor, and Danielle Albertson, the team's coach, both knew they wanted to start a golf team at Huntington Catholic for middle schoolers and each spent a few years trying to do so.

They just didn't know about each other.
"We both wanted to do it for a couple of years, but I didn't know she wanted to do it at the same time I did," says Stoffel.

Stoffel and Albertson both credit new Athletic Director Kevin Godfroy with putting them in touch.
"I approached him and she had already approached him before that and then we found out about it," Stoffel says. "It's a good setup."

Stoffel, a lifelong golfer whose family owned LaFontaine Golf Club in Huntington for 45 years, and Albertson, also a long-time golfer who has coaching experience at Huntington Catholic, both thought it would be smart to set up a practice area in the gym to help the first-year team find its game.

"We can focus on the fundamentals," says Albertson. "We can focus on their grip, on their swing, on their stance, on distance without having to deal with all the elevation and different things that golf brings to the game.

"So we're hoping that by bringing this element that they can concentrate on the fundamentals enough that it's habit before we get out there and introduce the rest of the game. They won't have as much to be nervous about."
The practice area is the first of its kind in the area and Stoffel and Albertson say that supplies donated from local businesses helped make it a reality.
"Everybody's been real helpful for us," Stoffel says.

The team consists of 17 students from grades five through eight and Stoffel notes the practice area has done its job in helping each of them get better.

"There's a lot of improvement to be made," he says, "but they've really come a long way in here."

Albertson sees the practice area giving Huntington Catholic a competitive edge on other teams going forward.

"Hopefully it'll give us an advantage in years to come that we can start golf season earlier than a lot of other teams and work on the fundamentals and things that we can't do outside."

The team's season is set to begin in mid-April and it has plans to host an invitational, but Albertson says she still wouldn't mind finding a few more teams to fill out the schedule.

"If any schools would like to add us to their schedule, give the school a call and talk to Mr. Godfroy," she says.

Until then, Stoffel has no problem fixing holes in the net as long as it helps fix holes in the team's game.

"It's broke a couple times but it does a good job," he says of the net. "They're really learning a lot."