When the North Arlington High School golf team made history last year by qualifying for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1&2 Group I state sectionals for the first time in school’s history, there were a lot of doubters.
There were some who wondered whether the Vikings actually belonged here. After all, North Arlington doesn’t have its own golf course to use for practice. The members of the team are not strictly golfers, rather duffers who just happen to like the sport.
So there was talk that it was a fluke appearance.
Well, you can take that fluke talk and flush it, because Monday morning, before the crack of dawn, the Vikings loaded up their mini-bus and headed to the Bowling Green Golf Course in Oak Ridge (yeah, you knew where it was, right?) in Morris County to make a return trip to the state sectionals.
Yes, the Vikings are getting a chance to play golf once again with the big boys.
“This was our way to prove everyone wrong,” said senior Darian Nogueras, who was part of the team last year and was the top shooter on this year’s squad. “We played with a lot of heart. It’s a great feeling with a tremendous sense of pride, a great day to be part of the Vikings.”
“I thought we would have a good year,” said North Arlington golf coach Dan Farinola, who does triple duty as the girls’ soccer coach in the fall and the bowling coach in the winter. “We did lose two good seniors from last year in Matt Karras and Kenny Kuzmuk and I knew we needed guys to step up and play well for us.”
Nogueras has been perhaps the player who best personified the coach’s wishes.
“He’s been our most consistent golfer,” Farinola said. “He’s part of the reason why we’re here again. He’s been a big help, dropping his average to 45 (for nine holes). I knew it was just a matter of time. He just needed to be a little more consistent. He could hit every club in the bag. He definitely played a lot in the off-season and that benefit ted him.”
It couldn’t have been easy for Nogueras to improve his golf game, especially since he is also a member of the NA varsity basketball team.
“I would go to a lot of different courses, like Belleville or in upstate New York,” Nogueras said. “I really wanted to improve my game. I went from the mid-50s to low 40s. I wanted to help the team get back to the state tournament and we were able to accomplish that.”
Farinola, who coaches three sports, wants his athletes to participate in more than one sport.
“I encourage them to play all sports,” Farinola said. “We have to have that here. I want to have as many threesport athletes we can have. It’s also important for me to have our athletes play all year. Our top four golfers all play more than one sport.”
Farinola appreciates the work that Nogueras put in to become a better player.
“He really looks more confident as a player,” Farinola said. “He can pick any club in the bag and hit it. He’s not trying to be too fancy. He’s concentrating on hitting a few clubs better and it’s helped him tremendously.”
Sophomore Tyler Sheffler, who is also a member of the North Arlington swim team, is another improved golfer.
“He was averaging around 54 last year and now he’s at 48 this year,” Farinola said. “That’s a big improvement. He’s more consistent and hitting it further off the tees. It means he’s getting to the green quicker.”
Senior Danny Goffredo returned to the golf team this year after taking last year off. Goffredo, also a member of the football team in the fall, has made a major impact.
“He’s a grinder,” Farinola said of Goffredo. “He has the perfect golf mentality. He never gets upset and just keeps playing. He wants to have fun. Danny coming back was a big help to us.”
“It’s nice to see Danny come back and play with us,” Nogueras said. “He knew it was a goal for us to get back (to the state sectionals).”
Sophomore A.J. Ford is a newcomer to the Vikings’ roster. Ford also plays football and basketball.
“He’s played golf before, just not competitively,” Farinola said. “He hits the ball really long. He’s been under 50 a couple of times. It means the most for me to get the chance to work with him over the next few years. He definitely has a lot of potential.”
Junior Louie Davio is another solid ball striker.
“He is consistently around 50,” Farinola said. “He’s always long off the tee. He’s been having a good year.” Senior Phil Rosalis-Goncalves is the fifth member of the Vikings’ regular golf roster.
“He’s a good teammate,” Farinola said. “He’s been with us for all four years and consistently has gotten better each year.”
Farinola was asked what it meant to bring the Vikings back to play with the state’s elite Group I and Group II programs in the state.
“It means a lot,” Farinola said. “Last year, we just wanted to be competitive. The guys who came back this year talked about it. They wanted to make it back again. That was the goal. To accomplish that is just great. I want these kids to have a love for the game. Not just this year, but for the rest of their lives. I want them to be out there enjoying themselves every way possible so that they want to keep playing forever.”
One thing is for sure: The North Arlington golfers have created a legacy. Two straight appearances in the NJSIAA state tournament is nothing to sneeze at. Maybe they’re going to make traveling to the states an annual early morning May experience.