Hopedale High Golf Team Has A Variety Of Strengths

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
October, 2018
Article Body: 

Jim McCallum’s goals for the Hopedale High golf team are admirable — improve daily, win the Dual Valley Conference championship, qualify for the district tourney and become district champs.
Those objectives may sound lofty but in McCallum’s 25 years as the Blue Raiders’ coach he’s guided his forces to nine district crowns. “Give all the credit for those nine championships to the players,’’ the personable McCallum said. “They’re the ones who made key shots and sank the pressure putts.’’
The 67-year-old coach, who also directed Milford High’s varsity squad for 12 years, knows what makes golfers tick and he’s acutely aware of the attributes needed for success. So far, Hopedale is 2-0 after downing Uxbridge and Douglas.
“Our strengths include consistency, positive attitudes, team chemistry, being sound fundamentally, having good skills and technique and possessing a coachable nature,’’ McCallum said. “Our kids also have a high golf IQ — they know the rules and their course management is solid.’’
Only one senior — co-captain Jake Hibbert — has graduated from last year’s team that won the DVC title and the District championship. And, having six returnees with experience forming the nucleus of the squad, McCallum’s contingent could improve on last year’s 10-4 overall record.
Two golfers who’ll play key roles are senior co-captains Ben Tammaro and Matt Costanza. Tammaro, who averaged 40 for nine holes last year, was a three-time all-star (DVC, Worcester Telegram & Gazette and Metrowest News). Costanza’s nine-hole average was 43.
“Both Ben and Matt are quality leaders,’’ McCallum said. “Ben is a quiet leader and Matt tends to be more vocal. Ben is our best player. He’s small in stature but big in ability. He hits the ball a mile and is excellent on chips and putts. He’s very consistent and just a solid overall player.’’
McCallum also is bullish on Costnza’s play. “Matt has a strong overall game and he can putt, drive and chip effectively. Occasionally, Matt will shoot a high score, so he needs to work on his consistency. He’s a hard-worker and a good team player.’’
Senior Jackson Powell, who averages 42 for nine holes, gets high marks from his coach. “Jackson is another consistent player whose overall game mirrors his 42 average,’’ McCallum noted. “His swing and his fundamentals are the best on our team.’’
McCallum was counting on two other seniors — Devlin Summers and Tyler Hammes — but Summers is unable to compete this year because of an injury. Summers averaged 44 for nine holes last year and although Hammes averaged 52, he’s one of the Blue Raiders’ most-improved players.
“It huge to lose a player like Devlin who shoots 44,’’ McCallum said. “That hurts our depth but younger players will have to step up. Tyler joined us two years ago and he’s brought his score down from the 60s. He’s improved his overall game so much and his even-tempered style is a plus.’’
Junior Jack Figgins has been labeled “a diamond in the rough’’ by McCallum. He averaged 42 for nine holes last year. “Jack is our most-improved player over three years,’’ McCallum said. “He came out as an eighth-grader and last year he moved up from our No. 4 player to No. 2. He’s strong in all areas and he’s got passion for the game.’’
Freshman Jack Liberatore, who joined the varsity as a seventh-grader, rounds out a nucleus of six.’’ He averaged 55 last year but he’s worked diligently to improve his skills.
“Jack was in the high 60s early on but his work ethic is so good,’’ McCallum said. “His swing mechanics and skills are definitely improving. He’s got a great attitude and loves the game. He’s comes from good stock. His father (Dan) was a basketball and baseball star at Hopedale and his uncle (Tom) was an excellent golfer at Hopedale who also starred in basketball. Tom is a former club champ at Hopedale Country Club.’’
As for the remainder of the squad, McCallum said he’s got a half dozen young prospects who have potential and “are hard-working and aiming to crack the starting lineup.’’
McCallum, who coached Hopedale’s girls varsity basketball team for six seasons, rates Nipmuc and Sutton as the teams that will challenge the Blue Raiders in conference play. “They’ve got tradition, talent and they’re well-coached,’’ he said. “Last year, Nipmuc won the Districts in Division 2 and Sutton was runner-up to us in the Division 3 Tournament.’’
One prime reason why Hopedale has been so successful in golf is McCallum’s philosophical approach to competing. Surprisingly, winning is not first or even second on his list. “I stress having fun first,’’ he said. “If the kids aren’t enjoying the game or having fun, then I’m at fault. Reaching their potential is important and displaying sportsmanship, honesty and integrity are other keys. If those things are occurring, then winning should follow.’’
Now in his 38th year as a golf coach, McCallum still loves the game and still plays it. He says it’s the most important sport a boy or girl can play in school. “Kids who play golf in high school can play long after their college days,’’ he noted. “It’s great exercise and you can play into your 90s.’’
And, there’s another aspect of the sport that McCallum admires. It’s the way golf teaches youngsters how to deal with pressure. “A three-foot putt to win a state championship can be a harrowing experience,’’ he emphasized. “But, it also helps kids to deal with and cope with pressure situations.’’
Jim McCallum’s 2018 golf team no doubt will face a variety of pressure-packed situations and the odds are good that the Blue Raiders’ success rate will be high.