Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

LaLonde Has the Drive to Thrive on the Golf Course

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Sophomore Keegan LaLonde of the Branford golf squad earned a spot to play at the State Open, following a regular season that saw him collect medalist honors on multiple occasions for the Hornets. Photo courtesy of Keegan LaLonde

Sophomore Keegan LaLonde of the Branford golf squad earned a spot to play at the State Open, following a regular season that saw him collect medalist honors on multiple occasions for the Hornets. (Photo courtesy of Keegan LaLonde)

Keegan LaLonde learned the sport of golf by playing with his grandfather Peter. A sophomore at Branford High School, Keegan is now using the skills that he gained to succeed on the varsity links and has become the first member of the Branford boys’ golf team to make the State Open in Head Coach Jen Kohut’s tenure.

Keegan started playing golf at the age of six. He often watched professional golfers and tried to imitate their swings. Keegan used to chip in his grandfather’s backyard before the two started playing on courses together, helping him get acclimated to the sport.

“I’ve been golfing my whole life. My grandpa taught me how to play,” says Keegan. “From chipping around in his backyard, I gradually got some small clubs, and we started playing on the courses. That’s really how I started golfing.”

At the age of 11, Keegan joined the New Haven Country Club and began competing in the Junior PGA. He was joined by his brother Patrick, who is a freshman on the Branford golf squad. Keegan says that playing on the Junior PGA circuit made him a better golfer and opened his eyes to what the sport could do for him.

“It was a great opportunity. We got to play at all these different courses throughout the state,” Keegan says. “It was a good opportunity to play against other kids and other teams. It introduced that competitive nature to us.”

While golf is Keegan’s primary sport, he also grew up playing baseball. Keegan played Little League, competed for the Hamden Yard Dogs in AAU, and also played for Branford’s Cooperstown team in 2016. However, Keegan stopped playing baseball after the 8th grade. Keegan preferred golf, because it allowed him to escape from any stress.

“Right after I started playing, I loved it. Every weekend, I would go out with my grandparents and play. I loved it more than anything,” says Keegan. “I enjoy golf more than I enjoyed playing baseball. I’d rather go out and play nine than just practice baseball. I just enjoyed it more.”

Keegan joined the Branford boys’ golf team as a freshman, but saw his season canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, he returned to the Hornets as a sophomore and made an immediate impact. Keegan earned medalist honors numerous times for Branford and became the first Hornets’ golfer to reach the State Open in five years. Keegan feels that making the Open is a great accomplishment for him.

Keegan found that playing golf for the high-school team was a bit nerve-wracking at first. However, after competing in few matches, Keegan got into his groove and felt more comfortable competing.

“At the first tournament, I was nervous. Once the matches started going, I started getting a better feel for it. I started playing better,” Keegan says. “Once I got into that rhythm, I was able to keep producing those low scores. As the season went on, I just got my swing down, and I had a good mindset going into it.”

This spring marked the first time that Coach Kohut saw Keegan compete, and she was impressed with how the sophomore performed. Kohut says that Keegan has high expectations for the Hornets, who posted a record of 12-2 on the season.

“Keegan is a focused, disciplined young man who is always looking to improve. He has set the bar high for our team, which has pushed our golfers to reach his level,” says Kohut. “Keegan is the first golfer in my tenure as head coach to qualify for the State Open. He is a pleasure to coach, and I look forward to two more years with him.”

Keegan believes that his long drives are his greatest strength on the golf course. Keegan says that he fares well with his irons, but it’s his drives that set him up for success on any given hole. As he continues his career with the Hornets, Keegan’s goals are to keep improving and continue lowering his scores as much as possible.

Keegan still makes time to play golf with his grandfather and his grandmother Maureen every weekend they can. Whether he is playing recreationally or at a big-time meet with Branford, Keegan relishes being on the golf course.

“It feels good to call myself a golfer and have that be my only sport,” Keegan says. “It’s my strong suit. I love it.”

 


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