Golf team performance helped by female team members

photo: Severine Stier

Kelly Qiu ’17 swings her club during a practice at Princeton Country Club on April 22.
photo: Severine Stier

Few people are aware of the happenings in the golf world at Princeton High School, and even fewer know that the team does not play other coed teams. Although members of both genders swing their clubs for the Little Tigers, Princeton’s golf team officially competes against boys team and is seen as a boys sport.

Since PHS does not field a separate girls team, like some other teams in the area, the team functions as a co-ed sport. Although a number of girls regularly attend practices, there are two female members of the team, Laura Burke ’14 and Diane Karloff ’14, who have been on the varsity roster for matches for two to three years. Additionally, the 2014 spring season brought with it a new female varsity member, Kelly Qiu ’17, who has played in around half of the matches so far this season. Since matches feature only six players, half of Princeton’s varsity team is made up of girls when Burke, Karloff, and Qiu play— something other teams sometimes find surprising.

“I think it’s different because most schools have girls teams,” said Burke. “There are other girls who come to practice, but just aren’t on the [varsity] team, so we’re getting to the point where we could have a [girls] team.”

While PHS continues to operate with just a boys team, female team members are paired with boys from the other teams of equal seed and, during matches, must go around from hole to hole with their pair. “I’ve had to play with boys since my freshman year, and it’s funny to see how they react sometimes,” said Burke. “They can get super mad and [start] cursing and doing all this crazy stuff. Girls are definitely more composed so I feel like [the atmosphere is] more mellow with girls.”

Karloff, who has also been playing in varsity matches for two years, agreed. “I think it’s certainly unusual for [boys], but probably once they start playing they realize we’re not any worse than they are and we’re holding our own,” she said.

“Some teams actually do find it shocking [that there are girls on our team], but then they see girls like [Burke, Karloff, and Qiu] play, and they really get shocked,” said Joseph Phelan ’17, who has played in a number of varsity matches. “They realize that girls can play the game too and they can actually beat the guys.”

Burke is usually the scorer closest to par on the team and Karloff usually occupies one of the top four seeds. With the help of Burke, Karloff, and Qiu, Princeton’s co-ed team has enjoyed some success so far this season, with a current record of 4–3, and has performed somewhat consistently, scoring in the 220s and 230s in six of its seven matches.

“Diane and Laura are very consistent, serious players,” said Head Coach Sheryl Severance. “They take their game serious[ly] [and] they practice a lot, so I think they are a positive example to the rest of the team.”

Princeton is not just unique in its large number of female players—it is also one of only three teams in its conference with a female head coach. West Windsor Plainsboro High School South and Hightstown High School are the only other schools that have female leadership. “For me, [Severance is] more relatable [and] she’s fun to talk to, so I think having a female coach is nice,” said Burke.

Severance believes the manner in which females and males approach the game is somewhat different. “I think … the males can kind of take their game for granted sometimes,” said Severance. “They just think they can hit the ball far and be successful, but they they see Diane and Laura working around the green, working on their short game, and bringing in low scores, and they realize that there’s a lot more to it than just hitting the ball far.”