Putt-ing Another Season Away: Golf Season Recap

From coaches motivating the athletes, to winning and losing matches, to attending state championships, the 2022-23 golf season brought some hard-earned successes to the athletes, who ultimately ended the season with four wins and eight losses.


Jeff Scudder via Victor O’Neill Studios

Leaving the season behind, sophomore Aiden Patel walks along a golf course holding all his golf equipment. Patel, although not yet a senior, is already thinking about his future in golf. “Hopefully, [I’ll continue golf] in college, and if I can go pro, a 100%,” Patel said, “But if I can’t, I’ll probably just find a job.”

From August through October, the Rock Ridge varsity golf team participated in a total of 10 matches and two tournaments. The team, spanning all high school grade levels, consisted of just nine members, but that didn’t stop them from building a semi-successful season. Coaches Mark Sheptock and Jason Geyer led them to victory at four out of their 12 competitions, triumphing at matches against Broad Run, Tuscarora, John Champe, Dominion, and Park View High Schools.

Despite their differences, the golf team found ways to connect with one another. “We come from different backgrounds, but we still have a common interest when it relates to golf,” junior Dillon Brooks said. The team was able to bond tremendously throughout the season, talking during the car rides to matches or during practices at South Riding Golf Course.

This year, with the special circumstance of only nine members, it was easier for the team to bond as a whole. “My team is probably the best when it comes to friendliness, because, you know, as a golf team, most people are very quiet, but my team–the Rock Ridge team–was very active,” senior Vishresh Vasan said. “I’m really hoping I can still play with them in the future, after I go to college, and hopefully, we can meet sometime to play on the course.”

The team was able to go to places like TopGolf, where they not only received a chance to practice their skills, but also an opportunity to get to know each other better and help each other improve. “During my freshman year and sophomore year, it was harder to bond with the older kids, because there were a lot of them,” senior Manusri Vemulapalli said. “Us freshmen were scared of them. Now as a senior though, I’m the oldest one there, so I tried to reach out to the freshmen and the younger ones. We just talked to each other while playing, and we tried to make sure they’re comfortable while they’re playing golf.”

Like Vemulapalli, Vasan received a chance to teach people. “I got to teach some of the new freshmen as well–how to play, their stance, all the basics,” Vasan said.

As seniors, both Vemulapalli and Vasan will be leaving the school next year. “Both bring great attitudes to practices/matches, are very coachable, and they get along with everyone,” coach Mark Sheptock said. “It’s been really fun watching them grow over the last several years, and I will miss their energy and enthusiasm next year.” 

Vemulapalli is still undecided on whether or not she will continue golf in college. “I’m not really sure. I guess it depends on which college I get into,” Vemulappalli said. “If it’s a college where I know I can get into the team then I’ll be like, ‘Okay, yeah, I’ll try and continue.’ If not, I’ll probably let it go.” 

Vasan, on the other hand, has made his decision. “Absolutely, I am going to play in college,” Vasan said. “I don’t know what college I’m going to yet, but whatever it is, I am joining the golf team, because that’s the only sport I like playing.”

Throughout the season, coach Sheptock and coach Geyer also helped with physical and emotional support, something every athlete needs. “Coach Sheptock–he has to be my golf idol, because he’s the one who motivated me to keep playing,” Vasan said. 

Sheptock drove in techniques and told the team what they needed to work on, regarding their craft and overall how they looked at the sport. “He helped me a lot as to how to fix my swing,” junior Veer Sidhu said. “In practice, whenever he would watch me, he would always give me those critiques that really helped me.” Geyer, on the other hand, motivated the team through food, water, and similar things during matches and tournaments, as well as through additional PE time if they won. Both coaches gave pep talks and speeches to the players to motivate them, too. “Coach Geyer–he was really good emotional support,” Sidhu said. “He was always really cool and collected, so he would always help me if I was stressed.”

Coach Sheptock–he has to be my golf idol, because he’s the one who motivated me to keep playing

— senior Vishresh Vasan

The golf season starts and ends earlier than most of the fall sports; it is one of the only sports that has a schedule like this. Therefore, the team had to miss some classes in the beginning of the year in order to attend their tournaments. For Sidhu, the most difficult part about golf was not the playing itself; it was the timing. “Since [the season] was in the beginning of the year, I had to miss a lot of my A-day classes,” Sidhu said. “Since it was the first few classes, it was really important to get to know the teacher and what was going on in the class.”

Squatting on the golf course, senior Manusri Vemulapalli holds her golf club and looks toward her ball. “[Playing golf as a senior was] pretty weird, actually, because I got to play a lot more than I usually did before,” Vemulapalli said. “As a freshman, I had basically no experience. When I was a senior, it’s like, ‘Oh my God, I’m actually playing in a lot of matches now.’ And, it’s also the fact that I feel like I’ve grown a lot.” (Jeff Scudder via Victor O’Neill Studios)

Throughout the season, many of the team members were able to either achieve, or get very close to achieving, their own personal goals this year. Vemulapalli was able to shoot below 45 in nine holes. After playing on and off since Brooks was four years old, he was able to get back into golf and reach a competitive level through a personal trainer. With a goal of 85 or lower, Sidhu was able to shoot exactly 85 in the tournament. Vasan was able to hit his longest drive of 352 yards, effectively beating his goal and surpassing his previous 328 yards.

And, perhaps most notably, sophomore Aiden Patel was able to attend the Virginia High School League (VHSL)  state championships. “I’d say [my goal] was to go to states, for sure, as a team,” Patel said. “But, unfortunately, I just went by myself. I achieved most of the goals I wanted–except states. I wanted to win it, but I didn’t really win.” After advancing through districts and regionals in late September, Patel ultimately placed 16th at states in early October. 

Sophomore Aiden Patel’s participation in state championships was a major success for the golf team this year. To make it there, he first had to qualify through districts and regionals. (Syd Nguyen via Inkscape)

Sheptock was nonetheless impressed with Patel’s performance and has high hopes for his future. “Our #1 player, Aiden Patel, twice shot 32 during matches, which is one stroke off the school 9-hole scoring record,” Sheptock said. “Aiden has two more years left at Rock Ridge, so I would not be surprised if he breaks one or more school golf records by the time he graduates.”

Overall, the team had positive feelings about the season. “Overall, this year–it was fun,” Vasan said. “It was my best season yet, and I learned much more than I did my previous years.”

Sheptock also considered the season successful. “What I look for each season is to make sure that the students are enjoying their time at the course, competing to the best of their individual abilities, and improving as the season progresses,” Sheptock said. “I can say, I think we accomplished that this season, so I would consider it a success.”