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Monday, May 27, 2024
The Observer

Politte, senior leaders push Saints past early adversity

Golf is a game of mental adjustments. That typically refers to common in-round course corrections. But what happens when such a change goes beyond the scope of 18 holes?

Holy Cross men’s golf faced that question when head coach TJ Mannen parted ways with the program in mid-September. In stepped former assistant Aaron Martinez. His first task was rallying a surprised group of young golfers, all recruited by the exiting Mannen.

“For the first few weeks after the transition, it was definitely a bit of a challenge to rein everybody back in because it’s really hard to compartmentalize,” Martinez said. “When you’re an athlete whose coach has just left, your world is sort of turned upside down.”

Those early challenges carried over to the course as well. The team finished in the field’s top 40% just once among five fall events. However, that result, a third-place home mark at the Saints Classic, showed potential that the Saints realized in the spring.

“To their credit, I think the athletes were able to look at the situation objectively, understand that there’s still an entire season left to play and realize that they have extreme potential as a team,” Martinez said. “Getting through that transition period was tough. But once we got through and were on the other side, it was relatively smooth sailing from there.”

After opening the spring with consecutive fifth-place finishes, the Saints took third in the Battle at Blackthorn. Then came the CCAC Conference Championship, where the spotlight fell on freshman Matthew Politte. In a dramatic, two-hole playoff ending, he secured the Individual Medalist designation.

“He was just a guy you could always rely on,” Martinez said of Politte. “You knew he was going to come in and shoot low to mid-70s every single time, weather permitting. Just a fantastic golfer and fantastic student-athlete.”

Politte will compete at the 2023 NAIA Men’s Golf National Tournament in Mesa, Arizona. His performance also helped the Saints to a runner-up result in the Conference Championship. Senior Carter Silva played an integral role in that, earning individual third-place honors.

“[Carter]’s been here for five years, loves Holy Cross and is just a phenomenal golfer with one of the most beautiful golf swings I think I’ve ever seen,” Martinez said. “But he’s also Mr. Reliable. He’s a great leader, he leads by example, he’s always at practice, he’s always at meetings, he’s at every tournament and just a phenomenal competitor. The program is definitely losing an integral part of our identity with his graduation.”

For the coaching staff, graduation will play a major role in the outlook of next year’s team. The Saints will lose four on an eligibility basis, plus Politte, who will transfer to Notre Dame. However, Martinez still sees a formula for progress.

“Practically speaking, most of our male golfers specifically would agree with the notion that they need to deal with adversity a little bit better,” Martinez said. “There are times where one or two bad shots can quickly turn into four or five.”