Aug. 8, 2012
STORRS. Conn. -
There is a definite youth movement now trending on the University of Connecticut men’s golf team.
No fewer than five new freshmen will tee it up for the Huskies in the 2012-13 season, taking the spots vacated by last year’s seniors, and bringing with them a fresh influx of talent, inexperienced though it may be.
“When I got here and first recruited the guys who just left the team, it was kind of the same thing,” said head coach Dave Pezzino, entering his sixth season at UConn. “Where we’re lucky is that the five guys who are coming in fit the mold of what we are looking for in a student-athlete. They match the guys who just left --- when they were freshmen, they were mature and gave us a good base. These guys will do the same. And, they’ll have an opportunity to play right away.”
Each of the five freshmen hails from Connecticut, joining the five returning players, all of whom are also from within the state, giving the Huskies a complete Nutmeg flavor.
“It’s not that I didn’t want anybody from outside the state,” Pezzino said. “It’s just that this class was so strong within the state and we thought we were extremely fortunate that we were able to get them to commit to us.”
John Flaherty (Glastonbury), Zach Zaback (Farmington), Cameron MacKay (Brookfield), Corey Birch (Ridgefield), and Stephen Pastore (Greenwich) make up the freshman class of Husky golfers.
Flaherty, out of Glastonbury High School, was last year’s Connecticut Division I high school champion, in addition to his three years as both an All-State and All-Academic selection.
“John is just a wonderful player, very steady with not a lot of ups and downs,” Pezzino said. “He is very reliable when it comes to keeping the ball in play and giving himself good opportunities to score.”
Zaback graduated from Farmington High and, like Flaherty, plays out of the TPC at River Highlands. A three-time All-State and All-Conference pick, he placed second in the state tournament in both his sophomore and junior seasons and was third in the New England High School Championship last year.
“Zack has played a national schedule and experienced a lot of success,” Pezzino said. “He’s a solid producer on the golf course, who doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but gives himself a chance to get out of it when he does. He, like John, is a very cerebral player.”
MacKay, who plays out of Redding Country Club, was a four-year letter winner at The Gunnery (Washington, Conn.), where he helped lead the team to the New England Prep School Championship.
“Cameron is a very mature young man and an excellent student,” the UConn coach said. “He’s very powerful off the tee, with the potential to really post some low scores. He’s not afraid to compete.”
Birch is a product of Ridgefield High, which also produced UConn sophomore Dan Myers. Birch, plays out of Silver Spring Country Club in Ridgefield and has won that club’s men’s championship twice. His third-place finish is the state tourney propelled Ridgefield to the state championship.
“Corey is an extremely hard worker at the game,” Pezzino said. “He also has a powerful game, but has a lot of good touch. His work ethic is something that will be a great addition to something we already do at UConn.”
Pastore, a Greenwich High grad, comes from a family of strong golfers. He helped Greenwich High win the FCIAC and State Championships last year, and he won the Greenwich Men’s Town Tournament this summer.
“Stephen is another guy from a state championship team,” Pezzino said. “He and his family have had a lot of success in the tri-state area. He wants to work hard and he’s excited about the challenge at UConn. He’s got a solid game and he’s had the chance to play under pressure.”
The five freshmen join senior Brian Hughes (Fairfield), junior Mike Masso (Suffield), and sophomores Chris Waitr (Woodbury), Dan Myers (Ridgefield), and Dane Rosa (Mansfield) on this year’s UConn roster.
“I’m pleased that we had the opportunity to replace solid guys with solid guys,” Pezzino said. “This is going to be a fun group. I’m really looking forward to the season.”