It’s been a year of firsts at Holy Cross H.S. in Flushing.
The first class of girls joined the ranks this past fall. Girls in the school of course meant the first girls’ sports teams in Knights’ history.
Continuing with the theme of firsts, freshman golfer Emily Browne recently became the first female Holy Cross student-athlete to play in a CHSAA league match. For Emily and the entire school community, that was a true hole-in-one.
The 14-year-old Glendale native only started playing golf a year ago. She found out about a weeklong summer camp offered in the park, so she tried it out and fell in love with the sport.
Emily liked that golf is a strategic sport that allows for independence. She said it’s all about choosing the right club for the right distance as well as relying on your own knowledge to fix your technique and improve on the course.
When she set foot in Holy Cross in September, she decided to try out for the varsity golf team, which was made up of just boys. Though she felt a bit intimidated at first, Emily adjusted well to her new surroundings.
“The coaches were very supportive and spent a lot of time teaching us,” she said. “The boys on the team were also very welcoming. It helped a lot. They understood that I was still quite new, but they believed in me a lot and that I could do my best to win.”
In the fall, the team practiced every so often at the driving range and got out on the course a few times. Once spring came, the Knights began their league match-play schedule.
As the calendar turned, Emily’s short game improved drastically. She was strong off the tee to start, but as her chipping and putting got better, Knights head varsity golf coach Jimmy Quinn saw the progression and knew the time was near for her historic debut.
“She (Emily) really has been dedicated and has worked hard,” said Quinn, ’81, an FDNY captain now in his fourth season coaching golf at Holy Cross. “She never gets down on herself if she hits a bad shot. It’s a game of recovery. We all have bad shots. If she has a bad shot, she goes out there and she’s resilient.”
Originally, Quinn was planning to have Emily use this season as her learning year to then make her debut next year. However, he saw her improvement firsthand and believed she was ready now.
On April 30, the Knights took on Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, in a home match at North Shore Towers Country Club, Glen Oaks. Emily was among the six Holy Cross golfers set to compete in the 9-hole match.
As she approached the tee box on the first hole, she admitted to feeling a little nervous, since she was fully aware of the significance of the situation. Girls have played against boys before in the CHSAA golf league, but she would be the first-ever female golfer for Holy Cross.
“I was thinking about how this was a part of Holy Cross history that I was making,” Emily said. “It was a little scary. But it also felt like my hard work was paying off. I felt very accomplished.”
Emily did not win her head-to-head match, but she said she was very pleased with the way she played. She tied her opponent on several holes and felt confident that she put forth her best effort in what turned out to be a foundational experience in her Holy Cross athletic career.
“For us, she’s the very first girl to ever play in a league golf match for Holy Cross, which is a great accomplishment for her,” Quinn said. “She should be proud of herself because she put the work in to be able to represent herself well on the golf course.”
Two other girls are also on the Knights’ golf team, and they can look to the passion and work ethic displayed by Emily to continue improving their games to someday make their league debuts.
To keep honing their skills, Emily and a few of her teammates joined a PGA Juniors League program at North Shore Towers. Golf is sport that requires constant repetition and practice to truly master the game, and Emily is well on her way.
“Emily had never played before, and she loves it and is getting better,” said Quinn. “She’ll be playing next year and competing and winning next year. No question in my mind.”
Emily’s debut has paved the way for a possible girls’ golf team at Holy Cross. Even so, Quinn said he would keep Emily competing against the boys, since exposing her to the top competition will only make her a better player.
“It would mean a lot to me to have a girls’ team one day at Holy Cross,” Emily said. “Even after I graduate, coming back and seeing girls still playing golf and enjoying it would feel like I’ve started something at Holy Cross and left my mark on it.”
It surely takes courage and bravery to be a Knight. Emily though has taken it a step further, as she’s become the trailblazer for female golfers in Flushing.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.