TERRYVILLE - Terryville junior golfer Mike Hills showed his potential in his freshman season for the Kangaroos.
Hills was a Berkshire League First Team All-Star that year, in 2016.
Last season, Hills was expected to build off of his debut season at the varsity level, but it didn’t happen. The junior battled through a wrist injury all season long and at times showed. Hills wasn’t selected to the Berkshire League All-Star team and the focus was already on next year.
Now, a year removed from the injury, Hills completed his first nine holes of the season against Gilbert Tuesday, shooting a 47, good for second best in his pairing with Gilbert’s Dylan Keith and Wamogo’s Luke Waldron.
The reason behind the score - something Hills was somewhat disappointed about - wasn’t a lack of driving ability or putting ability, though. Rather, it was the strength of Hills’ game that he struggled with, approach shots.
“It’s usually my biggest strength,” Hills said. “My swing is just not consistent right now. I’m working on so much and couldn’t find the rhythm. I haven’t felt comfortable in awhile.”
While his performance on the course didn’t meet his individual expectations, Hills was pleasantly surprised with the play of his teammates.
The two players behind him - Andrew McLaughlin and Anthony Garuti - had set career bests and the No. 5 player, Jacob Zappone, shot a sub-60 in his first time competitively playing nine holes.
On a team featuring no seniors, Hills’ ability to lead is just as important to the overall success of the Kangaroos. He and the other returning players, such as Garuti, have already had an impact on the newcomers.
“The returning players are a great help to us first year players,” Zappone said. “They really help us out and give us pointers on the course. Mike’s been a great help to us. He’s given us pointers and basically showed us the rules of golf. He’s a great player.”
Terryville was pleasantly surprised with the performance in its season opener and it left a good feeling with the coaching staff that this year may be better than expected.
For Hills, shooting the best on the team is expected but he also has aspirations to continue playing at the collegiate level, something he flashed the potential of doing just two years ago but has since been absent.
“I need to be 10 strokes better than what I did [Tuesday] to play in college,” Hills said. “I shot a 47 and my goal is to always shoot in the 30s and I didn’t do that.”
There’s no doubt Hills will continue to lead Terryville but if he performs up to his expectations the Kangaroos could be a team to watch out for with all the surprising day one scores.
It’s just one match for Hills though, and there are plenty more.
“Mike is a trooper,” Kangaroos co-coach Dean Martin said. “He’s a kid that is so competitive. He’ll go on the driving range and work on his game. He was here [Monday] after practice and went to the driving range. He’ll work out his kinks. He’ll be shooting low 40s and is capable of the mid 30s. I think he’s going to bounce back. You can see he’s down, but he can’t let that bother him because he’s so capable.”
Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or firstname.lastname@example.org