MHS golf packs punch

Earlier this year, it was a toss-up whether or not Malibu High School would have a golf team this year.

During a recent meeting of the high school’s Athletic Booster Club, Cindy McConnell and Jud Allen had a small debate over who was going to coach golf.

After some deliberation, McConnell told the athletic director that she would take the job.

“I thought about it for about a week and thought, ‘Gosh, I have time now in my life. I could give this a try and see how it goes so at least the boys have a team that they can play on,’” McConnell said.

However, problems with academic eligibility has relegated the golf team to only three players — freshmen Josh McConnell and Quincy Allen, and sophomore Daniel Haines — who compete on an individual basis.

Quincy, Jud Allen’s son, is already the Frontier League leader in stroke number, Cindy said. Haines is only behind by two strokes, good for second in the league.

Cindy’s son, Josh, decided to try his hand at golf this year. He had never played competitively before, but decided to try something new after water polo season ended.

Josh, who is ranked 18th in the league, said being coached by his own mother was interesting, and suggested their relationship on the course was business as usual.

“I really just act like she’s a random person that’s coaching the team,” he said, “and I act like just a player.”

Haines said it’s been a good experience having Cindy as coach of the team.

“She really knows what she’s talking about,” Haines said. “Being an ex-LPGA [Ladies Professional Golf Association] player, she knows a lot about swing and knows how to coach as well.”

As a first-year coach, Cindy relishes in seeing the team get better.

“I really enjoy seeing the improvement in the younger players,” she said. “You’ll see kids that have never played and then all of a sudden, they start hitting the ball more consistently and their scores are dropping. That’s just fun to see their improvement and their happiness in that.”

One of the players who is improving as the season rolls along is Josh, his mother said.

“When Josh first started in the beginning of the season … he could barely hit a ball,” Cindy said. “He’s becoming more and more consistent and he’s progressing really nicely.”

Even though the team only has three players, Malibu has an opportunity to make the CIF playoffs. Haines believes he and Quincy have a good chance at appearing in the postseason in May.

“I’m pretty confident that both of us can do that,” Haines said.

In addition to making the playoffs, Haines is looking to shoot even par by next season, and said he will focus on that goal in the offseason.

“I’m just going to work hard, practice a lot over the summer,” Haines said. “I figure I’ll play quite a bit and really work on my game and try and get to that.”

Cindy said Quincy and Haines have their own professionals that help them with specific aspects of their games, and her role as a coach is, at times, one of simply encouraging her players during tournaments.

Cindy said the toughest part of playing golf at the high school level is the mental aspect of the game.

“It’s not getting too frustrated with yourself and not giving up no matter how poorly you’re playing,” she said. “That’s probably the most difficult thing to learn in golf.”

Josh said he deals with the frustrations of the game by taking a deep breath and focusing on his swing.

“When you’re swinging and you hit bad shots constantly, it gets pretty depressing,” he said. “But you just have to work through it.”

The Sharks’ home turf, the Malibu Country Club, is currently closed after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month, according to an LA Times article. Therefore, the team has to travel to courses in Agoura Hills, Westlake Village and Oxnard.

Malibu would need at least six players to compete as a team in the league and for the CIF playoffs. Cindy believes once that happens, the team can achieve great things.

“If we could get a couple more players, we would be winning this league,” she said. “I know it.”