THS Golf team in the hunt for an NVL title.
By JOHN TORSIELLO
This is a not a team similar in character and performance levels as the vaunted Torrington High golf teams of a half dozen years ago. Those teams would regularly shoot in the 140’s as a unit, roll over opponents and win Naugatuck Valley League titles.
But this year’s THS squad is still pretty darn good, even though winning scores, such as the 189 the Raiders compiled in a victory against Seymour Tuesday afternoon at Torrington Country Club are pretty much the norm.
Still, Torrington has won 14 of its 15 matches thus far. Its only loss was to undefeated Holy Cross at Western Hills Golf Course in Waterbury in late April.
Junior Carson Sparks shot a 39, freshman Jon Ledda a 41, sophomore Anthony Marinelli a 54 and senior Curtis Ledda a 55 against Seymour.
“We are a young team,” said head coach Joe Minutillo, who is in his 34th season directing the Raiders. “The league is pretty balanced and there isn’t a really great team. There are a lot of teams that have two good players. We aren’t a team like we had a few years ago that would put up some really low scores.”
Still, Minutillo and his charges believe they can win an NVL title this year.
“The league tournament will be played on a neutral course (Watertown Golf Club) and I think if we play well we can win it,’’ he said. ``If Holy Cross remains undefeated and we win out … If we win the NVL meet that’s the tiebreaker over Holy Cross.”
Torrington still has a few tough matches to play in the league – against St. Paul at Chippanee Country Club in Bristol and Watertown at Torrington Country Club.
“We are all so close it’s hard to say what will happen at any given match,’’ Minutillo said. ``We have some good freshmen and sophomores who have stepped up this year. Jon Ledda is a freshman and has moved into the No. 2 position. He and junior Carson Sparks (son of Fairview Farm Golf Course head pro and Gilbert School golf coach, Bobby Sparks) have gone back and forth being medalists this spring.”
Ledda and Sparks are averaging around 40 or 41 for nine holes and have shot in the high 30’s.
“Carson and I push one another, and my brother (Curtis, a senior captain) and I talk a lot about golf and how to approach a match,’’ said Ledda.
Jon Ledda is unbeaten and at 5-feet-7, 125 pounds one wonders how he generates enough power to nail drives 240 or 250 yards down the fairway, which he does with regularity.
“Really, my strength is my short game … chipping and putting,” he said.
The taller Sparks is a big hitter off the tee and relies on a steady all-around game to do his damage.
“We have more depth this year than the last few years,’’ Curtis Ledda said. ``It’s fun having Jon on the team this year because we make one another better. We figure if we win our matches at 1 and 2 it makes it easier on the other guys.”
Jon Ledda shot a 38 and Sparks a 39 in a win over St. Paul at Torrington Country Club, while Sparks had a 39 in a win over Watertown and Wilby at TCC.
Sophomore Glen Ashenbrenner has scored in several matches, and Marinelli has proven to be a sound No. 4 or 5 scorer.
Curtis Ledda played sparingly as a freshman and sophomore. But he became the team’s No. five player as a junior and has played 4 or 5 this year.
“We have more good players this year and that has helped us win most of our matches,’’ Curtis Ledda said. ``Having my brother on the team is big. The fact that we practice and play our matches at Torrington Country Club is another plus for us. This is a tough course and the greens are very difficult to putt, which other teams find out.
“We only lost once to Holy Cress and we just didn’t play well that day. It was wet and we didn’t have our best day. I think we can win the league tournament if we all play our best.”
Said Minutillo: “I really like our chances at the league tournament. We just were awful when we faced Holy Cross. Carson has played well all season and I think Jon Ledda can really be a player as he matures. I believe the next few years will see us get even better as a team.”
The head coach says calling Torrington Country Club home is a major bonus for his program.
``The members and head pro Glenn Carlson couldn’t be nicer,’’ Minutillo said. ``They enjoy having the kids up here and the club has a great practice area and the course makes the kids batter players. Glenn is always there to help the kids with their games. I’d like to get back to the days when the kids became junior members up here and played all the time. You can’t put your clubs down and pick them the following spring and expect to be any good or improve. The country club charges $600 for a junior membership with the second junior being free on a two-for-one. So it amounts to $300 per player. That is an amazing offer and several of the kids have become members.”