It seemed like a logical solution to Potomac golfer Mike Matta and his coaches: Lure baseball players out for the undermanned golf team.
Hey, if you can hit a moving ball with a bat, maybe you can hit a stationary ball with a club, the thinking went. And considering that Potomac baseball assistant Sal Colangelo is the head golf coach, and one of his assistants is head baseball coach Mike Covington, it was a fairly easy sell.
Thanks in part to that recruitment, Potomac attracted 21 golfers to tryouts, including about a half-dozen baseball players and a few softball players. The bump in participation gave the Panthers enough depth to finish second to Forest Park in the Cardinal District championship Monday at Forest Greens Golf Club in Triangle to earn a Northwestern Region championship berth.
"We started getting kids on the baseball team out, and when we became a little successful, everybody wanted to come out," said Colangelo, who took over the golf program last year. "It just kind of trickled down."
With the runner-up Cardinal finish, the Panthers qualified for tomorrow's region championship at 9 a.m. at home course Forest Greens. Colangelo, a 1991 Potomac graduate, believes this is the first time Potomac has reached regionals since 1985 and marks the first season the Panthers have won a match in five years or more.
In years past, Potomac would sometimes not have enough golfers to enter a full six-man team in an event. So Matta, for one, began trying to sell his baseball teammates on golf by inviting them to an empty field behind the school to hit balls after practice.
"They'd be amazed at how far [the golf ball] goes and want to come out and try it," said Matta, an All-Extra baseball choice last spring and the fourth-place Cardinal golfer this fall. "After two weeks, I wouldn't even have to say [anything]. They'd say, 'Hey, Mike, got any golf balls we can go hit up there?' I didn't think they'd catch on to it."
Matta, who along with junior Daniel Jones shot 80 at the district championship to lead the Panthers, singled out sophomore Zach O'Connor as a baseball player who picked up golf and ended up improving both his golf swing and his batting stroke.
"You're moving your hips, you're using your hands and [using] hand-eye coordination hitting the ball," Matta said. "It takes a lot more talent to hit a golf ball because it's really small and the club's really small, but the baseball also is really hard to hit."
"Your swing is short all the way through it and [you] finish high," Colangelo said. "Baseball is the same thing -- short through and finish high."
Although Potomac is unlikely to crack the top two at regionals and qualify its team for the state championship, the future of the program is encouraging. Matta is the only senior in the team's customary top six, which also includes juniors Jones, Andrew Chung, Heather Ward and Lee Roadcap, and freshman Ryan Moriarty.
"The kids who are out are dedicated," Colangelo said. "That's the main reason we've been so successful."