Kayla McMahon and Giovanna Macheda both played softball growing up.
But at Sayreville War Memorial High School, McMahon and Macheda transitioned to another, less popular sport for teenage girls: golf.
McMahon picked up golf because her uncle and godfather, Frankie Berdame, played all the time and talked to her about it. Macheda wanted to stay with softball in the spring, but she got cut as a junior last year.
After Macheda got cut, her auto shop teacher at Sayreville, Richard Bates, convinced her to come out for the girls’ golf team, which he coached.
“I hated golf but I was like, ‘Sure I’ll give it a try,'” Macheda said. “Now I love it.”
By last spring, McMahon was playing golf all year and scoring in the low 40s in nine-hole rounds. After joining the Sayreville team, Macheda showed a natural swing and posted scores in the 50s.
The duo led the Bombers to a plus .500 record and a fourth place finish in the Greater Middlesex Conference. They are back to lead the team again this spring.
With four of six starters back overall, the Bombers should win a lot of matches and compete in the GMC again in 2019.
“It’s a solid squad,” Bates said.
McMahon should be one of the best girls’ golfers in the GMC. Her only weakness last year was her short game. McMahon would often waste three shots on putting.
But in the offseason, McMahon revamped her putting stroke. She starts her club low, pushes through the ball and follows through by raising her club.
The new style is working so far.
“Everything with Kayla is two putt or lower,” Bates said.
With a better short game, McMahon thinks her scores will plummet into the 30s this spring. She is confident that she can beat GMC opponents. But McMahon is really aiming for her uncle.
“I wouldn’t say I’m better than him yet,” McMahon said, laughing. “But that’s my goal.”
Macheda is like McMahon a year ago. She can drive the ball far, but she needs to improve her short game.
Last year as a golf beginner, Macheda just had to build a swing. Bates told her to watch YouTube videos. She discovered Michael Breed, a professional golf instructor and television personality.
Breed’s videos taught Macheda to turn and rotate her hands as she swung. Macheda was just “flicking” her hands before, she said.
She has taken the same auto didactic approach to learning the short game, watching videos and practicing on her own time.
But the short game is much harder. Still, Macheda is committed. Bates is a big reason for that.
When Macheda struggles at practice, Bates encourages her. The two developed that relationship in auto shop class.
“If I was changing a tire wrong, I’d doubt myself and say I couldn’t do it. He’d say I could,” Macheda said.
In class, Bates also recognized that Macheda had character. He saw her commitment to completing tasks.
“When she had issues with a project, she’d ask the right questions,” Bates said. “Then she’d take my advice and get the project done.”
Now, by committing to a sport she once hated, Macheda has found a hobby for life.
“I’ll definitely play after I graduate,” Macheda said. “It’s fun.”