Conventional wisdom says to become a top golfer you need to spend hours and hours at your local course, hitting the driving range at the crack of dawn and putting and chipping until the sun sets on the 18th green.
Vermilion seniors Reese Miller, Mason Montgomery and Noah
Cacciatore have turned conventional wisdom on its ear.
All three are multisport athletes who have spent as many hours on the baseball diamond or basketball court as they have on the golf course, yet they were key reasons why the Sailors won the Sandusky Bay Conference championship last season.
A championship they intend to successfully defend as seniors.
“Coming back from an SBC championship, we have the high ground right now,” said Miller, the reigning SBC Player of the Year. “We’re the defending champions, so it’s our to lose and we’re feeling pretty confident right now.”
Miller, a three-sport athlete who didn’t play golf until his freshman year, has an 18-hole average of 81.6 this season and had a third-place finish at the Comet invitational at Oberlin Golf Club.
Miller never expected that by his senior year golf would become his favorite sport.
“The more I golfed, I loved the game more and more,” Miller said. “I picked the game up rather easily and my baseball swing adapted into my golf swing.”
Although Miller and Cacciatore both played on the Vermilion baseball team last spring, they took the summer off from baseball and could often be found playing golf together at Willow Creek, the Sailors’ home course.
“It came down to what I enjoyed more and I’m happier on the golf course,” Cacciatore said. “I feel more comfortable and at home. The last couple years I couldn’t decide between golf and baseball. This year I decided to focus on golf.”
Cacciatore was first-team All-SBC last year with a 41.3 average for nine holes.
“I never thought I’d be where I am today. My freshman year I was in the high 40s and low 50s and I thought I hit a dead end,” Cacciatore said. “I just had to learn how to hit consistent shots, and my game evolved from there.”
Cacciatore said his baseball experience helped him prepare for the mental aspect of golf.
For Vermilion coach Joe Schneid, having a lineup filled with multisport athletes has been a positive.
“I like athletic kids, those are the kids who are usually very coachable,” Schneid said. “It’s tough sometimes in the summer for these kids to get out on the course when they have tournaments or weight training in other sports but they’re driven and want to improve so they get out here when they can.”
All five of the seniors on the Sailors roster — including All-SBC honorable mention Sam Herron and Mark Morris — have competed with and against each other throughout their lives and that friendship and competitive spirit have driven them on the golf course.
“These guys on this team, they’re my best friends,” Montgomery said. “Every day we work hard but we also have fun. It’s a blast being able to golf with them everyday.”
Montgomery, who is also an elite baseball prospect, has a 41.6 nine-hole average this year despite the fact he was only able to intersperse a few rounds between baseball tournaments this summer. He thinks another SBC title could be in store for the Sailors.
“We just have to do everything right and play the way we know how to,” Montgomery said. “The key is we can’t beat ourselves.”
Vermilion got off to a solid start, finishing second at the Keystone Grey Hawk Invitational and third finish at the Amherst Comet Invitational.
“These guys all have the competitive nature that drives them to improve and fine-tune their golf games,” Schneid said. “Another thing they all have is excellent hand-eye coordination. And some of those same routines you have before a free throw in basketball or an at-bat in baseball carry over to the golf course. You want to have that consistency before every shot.”
A season ago, the Sailors advanced out of sectionals but finished seventh at the Division II district tournament at Red Hawk Run Golf Course.
Another SBC championship and an improved performance at district could provide a storybook ending for a group of lifelong teammates and friends.
“It would be a perfect way to round out our high school careers,” Cacciatore said. “Just being with these guys every day is awesome. To get back to districts and maybe go all the way to state would just be the perfect way to round it out.”