Hours prior to the Central/South Group 4 sectional tournament on May 14, Williamstown boys golf head coach Tim Rue decided to do something a little different.
Wanting to give the team a motivational pep talk prior to the tournament but also not wanting to disturb them from their pre-match routine, Rue went with an unconventional method to deliver his message.
“They got on the bus, they’re always quiet, they’re listening to their headphones,” Rue said. “We’re driving up to sectionals and I thought, I have to talk to these guys. I didn’t want to get too emotional right before the match but I want them to think about what I have to say.”
Instead of addressing them verbally on the bus, Rue instead decided to text his motivational speech to each of his players.
“You say it and it’s in one ear and out the other,” Rue said. “When they’re reading it and have an opportunity to read it two or three times before the match, as crazy as it sounds, it actually worked.”
The Braves emphatically responded to Rue’s message, winning the first-ever sectional title that afternoon. A little less than a week later, on May 20 at the NJSIAA Group 4 Championship, Rue texted his pep talk again. Again, Williamstown responded, winning the program’s first-ever state title. The Braves shot a 322 in the state finals to finish third in the Tournament of Champions standings behind non-public powers Bergen Catholic and Christian Brothers Academy.
Congrats to Braves Boys Golf…2019 NJSIAA Group IV State Champions! Liam Caspar shoots 78, Sean Caspar shoots 84, Steve Burek shoots 82, and Tyler Geatens shoots 78 to bring home the title!! pic.twitter.com/UdoOlbT1Ss
— Williamstown AD (@BravesScores) May 20, 2019
“That’s the best feeling,” junior Tyler Geatens said of being the top public school at states.
“Just to be able to see you’re the No. 1 public school in the state is something special,” senior Stephen Burek added.
This year’s Braves lineup was identical to last year’s, but the results were very different. In 2018, the Braves went 16-8, but finished in 10th place at the sectional tournament. This year, Williamstown finished its regular season with a 17-1 record, with its lone loss coming against Group 3 state champion Moorestown.
When asked how they were able to make such immense improvement in 2019, the team said it was simply a matter of confidence.
“More time playing and experience in the tournaments last year definitely made us less nervous this year,” senior Liam Caspar said.
Rue’s message to his team this year was to not get too wrapped up in small mistakes or adversity. The Braves ran into a bit of adversity at sectionals when Geatens was forced to withdraw due to illness. At sectionals, each team enters five players, with each team’s top four scores counting. With Geatens out, this meant the four remaining players: seniors Liam Caspar, Sean Caspar, Burek and Eric McCoy would have all of their scores count and left no margin for error. The response from the team wasn’t one of panic, but instead of determination.
— Williamstown AD (@BravesScores) May 14, 2019
“I found out with only four holes to play,” McCoy said. “At that point I knew my score was counting and I just knew I had to play as smart as I could.”
Liam Caspar stepped up huge, shooting a 69 to take first place and help his team to a big sectional win.
“I’m a longer hitter than most people, so I was able to go driver wedge for most of the holes,” Caspar said of his performance at sectionals. “Then, after I heard my teammate had to withdraw, I ended up birdieing five of the 10 holes.”
Rue believes the team’s performance in the face of adversity showcased how tight the team’s chemistry was and believes that chemistry is what the 2019 team will be remembered for.
“Something clicked this year,” he said. “They unified. They had each other’s back. When someone had a bad match, another was there to pick them up. It was just phenomenal.”