Triggered by Senior Zang’s play, Upbeat Approach, PHS Girls’ Golf making history in debut season
MAKING HISTORY: The members of Princeton High’s girls golf team are all smiling after taking first place in the Mercer County Tournament last Wednesday on the Mercer Oaks East Course. Pictured from left are head coach Jess Monzo, Jacqueline Zang, Rachel McInerney, Tia Sindu, Raima Srivastava and Madeleine Zang. The Tigers, in their first year as an official program, had a 327 team rating to defeat runner-up WW/P-South by 10 shots. PHS finished second in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Sectional Tournament at Stanton Ridge Golf Club in Whitehouse Station last Monday. The Tigers are next in action when they compete in the state championships on May 16 at the Raritan Valley Country Club in Bridgewater.
By Bill Alden
When Madeleine Zang entered Princeton High in 2019, she wasn’t sure if there was a way at school to pursue her passion for golf.
“I was hoping there would be some kind of golf team or something, hopefully a girls’ team,” said Zang, who started playing competitively in New York when she was 8 and moved to the Princeton area before high school. “There was no girls team; When I started my first year, there was only a mixed team.”
Zang played with the boys and developed into a key player for the squad.
“It was actually a very good experience, it was a lot of fun,” said Zang. “Playing golf in a team is very different from playing as an individual. It’s really good for my game and also easy to connect with others. There are a lot of great players in New Jersey among the guys, so that was a good experience.”
PHS launched an official girls’ program this spring, and senior Zang is looking forward to the squad’s debut campaign.
“I have to say, playing with a full girls’ team and playing against other girls in our county and state is an amazing experience,” Zang said. “I played on a girls’ team in middle school, but it wasn’t the same as playing with other PHS girls. We are all very interested in the game of golf. It’s great to play competitively with them in 9-hole matches after school.”
The young program made history in the last week. Last Wednesday, PHS took first place in the Mercer County Tournament on the Mercer Oaks East Course. The Tigers had a team score of 327 to defeat runner-up WW/P-South by 10 shots. Zang’s younger sister, sophomore Jacqueline, placed second in singles with a win over 73. Senior Zang finished fourth at 76.
On Monday, the Tigers finished second in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Central Jersey Sectional Tournament at Stanton Ridge Golf Club in Whitehouse Station, with Zang finishing second with an even par of 72 team score of 336, 25 strokes behind Master Wardlaw-Hartridge. PHS is next in action when it competes in the state championships on May 16th at the Raritan Valley Country Club in Bridgewater.
Playing with her younger sister Jacqueline was special for Zang.
“She played fantastic, the sister bond is really there, on and off the golf course,” Zang said. “We push each other and help each other as much as we can. We are both each other’s biggest supporters. If I have problems with my swing, she will come and look at it. I’ll help her with her swing. It’s a friendly competition. If I’m on the golf course and I’m playing worse than her and she’s playing better, she’ll make fun of me.”
In the MCT, Zang didn’t play her best early in the round but rallied and finished fourth.
“In the beginning I had a difficult start; I was a bit disappointed with that, but I turned it into the back nine,” Zang said. “I tried what I could. It was a lot of fun, I was really happy.”
Zang was more than happy with the collective performance of the PHS team in winning the title.
“I was really proud of the team and how well we played, everyone broke a 100 mark,” Zang said. “Jacqueline played really well, I was really proud of her. Everyone on the team really gave their all on Wednesday, it was incredible to see. We played as the unofficial girls team in the MCT last year and finished second and lost two shots. Anyway, when we came in with pretty much the same cast of girls this year, we were really hoping to play great golf.”
The girls bonded as they went through their debut campaign. “First and foremost, everyone is really interested in golf and wants to play well,” Zang said. “We have really good group dynamics. We are all team players. We all try to play as best as a team – we’re all here to support each other. It’s very special because it’s our first girls’ team. We played together as an unofficial girls team but now that we have a team it’s great.”
Going forward, Zang is excited to join another great team as she has committed to visiting Penn and playing for the women’s golf program.
“If I get to play with great girls on a golf course that has team dynamics, I think it’s going to be an amazing experience,” Zang said. “During Prioress Recruitment, I spoke to many Trainers. Academics were the most important factor in deciding which college I would go to. I also wanted to play in a team where the girls train really hard to do their best.”
PHS head coach Jess Monzo was thrilled with his team’s performance in winning the MCT.
“They were so excited, they saw what the guys were doing (winning the MCT on April 25), they knew they could do the same,” Monzo said. “They wanted to show what they could do, their skills and their ability, and they did.”
In addition to their skills and abilities, the squad brings an optimistic mentality to the course.
“A lot of it is because they’re so positive all the time,” Monzo said. “They’re positive about themselves, they’re positive about each other. They have a positive attitude toward any girl who hits a golf ball. Even if I hit a golf ball, they say, hey coach, it went straight this time.”
The Zang sisters set a positive tone with their business operations.
“They are enormous, it’s like having an ace up your sleeve; It’s like wrestling, you get to the last kid on the pole and he’s a state qualifier,” said Monzo, who is also the head coach of the PHS wrestling team. “You have everything
Trust in the world in this kid doing the work. It’s the same with these girls. You can’t do enough for our team. They’re leaders on the golf course, they’re leaders in the classroom. They strive for perfection everywhere and I think that really helps them. The rest of the team is really building on that.”
In the MCT, some of the team’s other players rose through the ranks as Tia Sindu attempted 12th at 87 and Raima Srivastava finished 18th at 91.
“It was great, they all finished before my group finished,” Monzo recalls. “When I came back to talk to them, I asked how everyone was, and they said, ‘We all broke the 100,’ and I said, ‘That’s great.’ That they all go so deep and hit a little below their 9 hole average is great.”
A key to the team’s success is the way the players strive to be great.
“With these girls and the time they put into the game of golf, it doesn’t surprise me how they shoot,” Monzo said. “But I know when they come out of class every day, they’re like, ‘I could have done it
better here, I could have done better there.’ They are always picky and go over their rounds in their heads to see where they can improve. That sets them apart from other players.”
Looking at the section, Monzo sensed PHS was poised for another big effort.
“The positivity is so contagious, once they feel good and believe that what they’re doing is working, there’s really no stopping them,” Monzo said. “They are great, they are a great group of girls. The next two weeks will be a lot of fun. We know what we have to do and we talked about it a bit. I just hope that on Monday we’ll get on the bus and be a part of something special.”
For her part, Zang was confident the Tigers would build on their MCT success.
“I have great confidence in our team,” said Zang. “I think this year, whether we’ve played really well or badly, we’ll still be super excited to be there and play together. I can’t wait to see everyone up there; I know it will be really great to see all these teams.”