Contributor and Wilton High School junior Maya Fazio plays on the school’s golf team. While all the typical elements of playing on a team–friendship, camaraderie, achievement, activity, etc.–are definitely motivators to participate, Maya says there’s a deeper, more emotional reason she plays golf.

I look forward to springtime. I look forward to the birds waking me up in the morning. I look forward to the warm wind in the afternoon. For when springtime rolls around, golf begins. Although a generally overlooked team, this year it’s so exciting to see that so many girls have become interested in golf. The amount of recognition the WHS Girls Golf team has gotten this past year is all because of the wonderful coach we have access to as well as our two captains, Morgan Hickey and NoraNoёl Nolan, who have not only played a crucial role in the team’s success, but also are the ones who are responsible for making the team have such a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. They were the ones who made my first year on the team so enjoyable and the experience left me with two new friends with whom I share a common interest.

Aside from having  friends on the team, my only motivation for playing golf was my grandpa who ingrained in me from a very young age that the only way to be a good golfer was to master your short game. This speech was usually followed by drill after drill in the backyard of his apartment complex, leaving little to no room for error.

Having tried out on a whim last year for the high school team, I soon found myself traveling with the other five members on the short bus, down winding roads to golf courses located sometimes in the middle of nowhere. Although I needed some work, I found myself liking a sport that I had sworn off just a few years earlier. I’m not sure if it was the chats on the way to matches, the hour-long phone calls with my grandpa about my performance and strategies, or the excitement of going to States that changed my mind, but something changed.

I soon found myself growing closer to my dad and my brother (also golf fanatics), but mostly with my grandpa who I believed was the best golfer to ever step foot on this earth. In my mind, he topped Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson any day of the week, hands down. Growing up, the scores he got baffled me, but as he aged, his health began heading on a downward trend and his scores inversely increased. But the one factor that remained constant was his attitude. Whether it was a good day or a bad day, I’ve never seen a man so mentally strong with such a can-do attitude. His ability to play 18 holes soon turned into nine, then five, then three, and only on a good day. He would tell me that, “You have good days and bad days. All you can do is show up and then the rest is out of your control. Even the pros have bad days. All we can ask is you try the best that you can.”

Easier said than done, but that soon became my mindset going into matches. Of course, I got frustrated, doubtful, and felt defeated every once and awhile, but I didn’t let myself stay in a negative mindset for the entire match. After the season ended last year, I spent my time traveling to courses with my brother and my dad and going to driving ranges early mornings and late nights, but most importantly doing drills in my backyard just like my grandpa taught me years prior.

Over winter break this year, my grandfather passed away. To say he was my best friend was an understatement. With all the chaos of junior year, the winter went by rather quickly and soon enough I found myself needing to start swinging my clubs again. In my head, yes, I heavily debated if I should play. Not that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t know if I could. It was hard at first. I became very frustrated, I got in my head, I got upset. With the season just recently starting, I’ve gotten out quite a bit due to the refreshingly warm weather we have been welcomed by recently.

Although not here physically, I find myself touching my angel wing necklace ever so slightly before every shot just for reassurance. I find myself going to my phone after matches to go call my grandpa, only to find the contact no longer in service. I have the honor of using his putter and I feel a sense of comfort in the fact that a part of him is attributed to some of the success that I have in a match because he believed if you weren’t good at chipping and putting, you’d never win.

Now that I think of it, I think my shift in opinion of golf stemmed from the radiance that emulated from my grandpa and the smile that spread across his face when he found out I was playing golf. With three wins under our belt already, I’m excited to see what Wilton Girls Golf has in store for the remainder of the season. We’re gonna do big things.