August 17 – While it’s safe to say that many teams have been working their way into the start of the fall sports season, it appears that Wilson’s golf team has been working overtime.
For the three-time defending BCIAA team champions, golf is a year-round process that involves a host of individual tournaments that help prepare the Bulldogs for consistent dominance at the county level. Having not lost a Berks League game since falling to Conrad Weiser on September 8, 2017, extended playing time on the field has created a dynasty at Wilson.
“Golf is a game that you definitely have to get your reps in,” Bulldogs coach Pat Howard said. “Especially in the summer, they play with their friends, they play with their family, and the more you play, the more your scores will drop. So it’s great to see them out there playing all the time and just having the love of the game.
“They’re not just dusting off the clubs at first, but they’re getting better out there every single day, which is great.”
Certainly not dusted off her clubs at first, Wilson senior Kayla Maletto, a Creighton commit and reigning Berks Female Player of the Year, has played some high-profile rounds over the summer. Maletto and sophomore teammate Kyla Quimby qualified for the Optimist International Junior Golf Championship at Trump National Doral Resort in Miami.
“Both of them are so dedicated to the game; they play all summer,” Howard said. “They’re always working to get better. They’re two players that you would love to have on your team because they’re out here every day to make themselves better and they’re just two great kids.”
Several golfers who later turned professional have played in the tournament over the years, including Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Scottie Scheffler, John Daly, Amy Alcott, Lexi Thompson and Jennifer Rosales.
Representatives from 20 countries took part in the 13-14- and 15-18-year-old divisions in the tournament in July. Quimby placed 34th in the 13-14 division.
“It was a really cool experience because I got to meet people from all over the world,” Quimby said. “It was also cool to see everyone come together because no one knew each other and in four days there were groups of friends everywhere. I met girls from Venezuela, Mexico. barbados, Colombia, People from all over the world. I have never experienced anything like it.
“I met a girl from Mexico and she said she doesn’t have that many people to play with down there. And then a girl from Colombia, she talked about having less options. Like in America, it’s easier to go places. with a sport because it’s so popular, but it’s hard for them because there are no opportunities anywhere.”
Due to heavy rain and lightning, Maletto’s department was unable to complete the tournament. However, the experience was enlightening for Maletto and Quimby, as a new understanding from an international perspective added to their shared understanding of the opportunities golfers have in America.
“I played that event last year and I played pretty well; it’s one of my favorite events just because of where it is and how it’s run,” Maletto said. “Many of my new friends that I met there are international, and it made me feel very fortunate to be committed to Creighton because they are all struggling to go to college in America.
“It just gives me perspective like I’ve worked hard and now I’m where I am so I don’t have to stress too much about the recruiting process. I met people from Chile and a lot of other countries and they’re all fighting for the same thing, and that’s going to college in America. So it really made me feel grateful and made me appreciate the work that I’ve put in.”
Maletto, whose sophomore season ended before the postseason due to a hand injury, enters her senior year of high school as a three-time All-Berks selection, two-time county female player of the year, two-time BCIAA individual champion and defending District 3 Class 3A champion.
The newfound perspectives and offseason practices are already paying dividends.
She shot a course-record 8-under 64 from the front tees at Golden Oaks last weekend. Although heavy rain and slow playing conditions tested her, Maletto went on to beat the 4-under 68 mark set by Joann Heller.
“I birdied the first three holes because I’ve been working on my wedges to prepare for the high school season, so my wedges are pretty dialed in, which is exactly what I need since the courses are short,” Maletto said. “That’s basically what helped me; I was either able to get ahead in two or (make one) up-and-down for birdie. It was a really slow round because of how busy they were on it day, and after nine holes I was 6-under and was like, “Aww, that’s taking forever.”
“And then Kevin Quimby (Kyla’s dad) played with us and said, ‘No, you’re done for this round.’ The slow play wasn’t ideal, so the back nine was just pars and an eagle, then it started raining in the last two holes, but I said, ‘I made it this far, I’m not stopping now.’ While everyone around us went inside, I managed to equalize.”
In a season-opening quad meet against Fleetwood, Oley Valley and Wyomissing at Golden Oaks on Tuesday, the Bulldogs shot 311 and won all three games. Maletto shot a team-low 74 and Quimby an 81. Wilson senior Gavin Siravo shot a 79 and has also done his fair share of practicing in the offseason.
Siravo, an all-division selection, said he is ready to take on an increased role as one of the team’s senior leaders.
“I’ve been preparing through tournaments in different tournaments: AJGA (American Junior Golf Association), Hurricane (Junior Golf Tour) Buckeye (Junior Golf Tour), just playing in all different types of tournaments and getting course experience,” Siravo said. “There’s nothing like playing in a tournament, playing with all that pressure, so I think it’s big and will definitely help us with our season.”
“I feel like for the past three years I’ve been following the leaders or the seniors on the team and now it’s my turn. I’m excited to be a senior because now I get to lead.
“It’s a little bit of pressure, but I think it’s nothing I haven’t felt before, and I’m excited about that pressure.
The extra practice will be helped by an increased sense of team chemistry, according to the Bulldogs. Along with depth from all classes, a loaded roster with plenty of up-and-coming players to watch breeds competition that fuels a greater drive for success.
“We help each other, we challenge ourselves in practice,” Quimby said. “We have competitions and we challenge each other. So when we have competition between each other, I think it helps to build up the tournaments.”
“Everybody comes together, there’s no drama, everybody helps each other get better,” Maletto said. “At the same time, everyone is friendly and pushes each other in the right direction. So I think the chemistry that we have makes a big difference because I know a lot of teams don’t have the same bond that Wilson has. I I excited to lead the pack this year and keep a good mentality.”
Sophomores Gabriel Spohn, Chase Mitstifer and Briggs Witmyer, and juniors Colton Buckley and Carter Brensinger add depth, according to Howard.
“We’ve got a lot of talented people, we’ve got some good young players coming up,” Howard said. “It hurts to lose the three big seniors (Evan Jozwiak, Nate Neiswender, Kyle Rittersbach) that we had last year because they were phenomenal players, but I know it’s kind of like a next-man-up mentality. So we’ll be in good shape, but I guess the biggest thing is that these kids are just amazing.
“In addition to being great golfers, they’re all great individuals, so they’re fun to coach. What sets us apart is the fact that there’s so much depth; we have a lot of players who can deliver some good results in this season.”
With the talent and depth to continue the success it has become accustomed to, Wilson is aware that nothing is a given and that it must earn everything if it is to be ahead of the pack in Berks.
“I don’t want to expect anything, I want to earn it,” said Maletto, who finished 11th in the state in Class 3A last season. “I’ve been practicing with a lot of my teammates and they’re in very good shape. There’s a lot of good players out here now and it’s going to be tough to get another county title, but from what I’ve seen from the varsity team, we’re in good shape .
“For my individual goals, I want to run at districts again, I want to work hard and bring home the county title and also enjoy my senior year.
“I don’t really set any expectations because having a good mindset is really what I want for the whole team, including myself.”