New golf season packed with changes

September 22, 2011 — by Aashna Mukerji

When Casey Hall stepped down as head coach for the 2011 girls’ golf season to assume a higher position at Stanford, the previously 19-member team was disappointed, to say the least.

When Casey Hall stepped down as head coach for the 2011 girls’ golf season to assume a higher position at Stanford, the previously 19-member team was disappointed, to say the least.

“I didn’t know what to expect,” junior Sanjna Verma said. “I was pretty sad because I’d had her as coach since I was a freshman, so this year was a big change.”

The girls’ golf team started four years ago, with Hall as head coach and Raylene Zatz as assistant coach. This year, those positions are filled respectively by Dave Gragnola and Louise Hall (no relation to Casey Hall).

Gragnola was approached to take over the girls’ team after accepting the position as head coach of the boys’ golf team following former head coach Bill Drennan’s retirement. Gragnola has coached a variety of sports including 18 years of soccer, five years of softball at SHS, and basketball. In order to take up the position as boys’ golf coach this season, Gragnola resigned as softball coach.

A seven-time golf club champion at Saratoga Country Club, where he has played since age 12, Gragnola describes himself as an “avid golfer.” He played basketball and golf as a student for SHS for three years, qualifying for CCS in the latter two.

“[Gragnola is] really funny and gives us great coaching advice, but he uses a different method than Casey [Hall’s], which a lot of us are more used to, ” Verma said.

Expanding on this new method, sophomore Sachi Verma added that he “expects players to know what they’re doing, whereas Casey was more relaxed with beginners.”

“My coaching style is pretty simple,” Gragnola said. “I like to have fun while I teach my players, but I’m very serious about the success of my team. I’m a firm believer that competition is good in sports.”

Gragnola hopes for SHS to become known as a place for people to learn about golf and hopes that his players will qualify for CCS.

Tryouts for girls’ golf were held during the first week of school. Only the girls with the top 12 scores made the team, resulting in seven players being cut.

Sophomore Halle Champion believes that the tryouts were beneficial to the team, separating the dedicated players from those who were attracted to the sport’s short season and simple reputation.

“People joined last year just to get out of PE, but this year’s a lot better,” Champion said. “We’ve been winning! Last year we didn’t really win anything, so I’m enjoying this season.”

Both Champion and junior Samika Kumar feel that the way Gragnola conducts practice is significantly different from Hall’s.

“Casey pushed us, but not as much as Dave does now,” Champion said. “It helps us and gets us more motivated.”

Kumar added that players are getting more time on the course and less time on the range, which can be both positive and negative.

Matches are usually held on Mondays and Thursdays, and the team has a win-loss record of 3-2 as of Sept. 21.

The top six players compete against other schools, while the rest of the team plays a nine-hole round in order to change their spot in the line-up.

“Those that want to represent the team need to practice and improve and deserve to be there,” Gragnola said. “I am fair about the rankings and hope that most of the players get a chance to compete for one of the six spots during the year.”

Ultimately, Gragnola hopes that the team will enjoy their season, learn to play the game and improve during the year.

“We will have fun and strive to win our league and beat our competition,” he added, ”especially against Los Gatos.”