Having put Wilton girls golf on the map, Nolan, Hickey take third in final tourney

When NoraNoël Nolan and Morgan Hickey teamed up last week at the annual Guimares Tournament, it marked an end to an era for Wilton High girls golf.

And cemented a legacy that will be hard to surpass as the program moves ahead.

The two senior captains finished tied for third at the tournament, held at Orange Hills Country Club in Orange last Wednesday, June 7. The event featured 26 teams from around the state.

The tournament, which is named after longtime Middletown High School coach Dennis Guimares, was started about 20 years ago. It is a nine-hole, best ball per two person team, event.

Guimares was one of the founders of the Connecticut Girls Golf League nearly 40 years ago. He ran the tournament before retiring eight years ago. The tourney has been run by Greenwich H.S.coach Maria Shimchick the past seven years.

Nolan and Hickey combined for a score of 41, finishing behind only the Darien team of Darien Emily Cohen and Bridget Wolters (38) and the Fairfield Warde team of Nadia Caputo and Emily Healy (40).

It was the second year in a row the Wilton duo has finished third.

It also marked the final time they would play together as WHS teammates.

Since the Wilton girls golf program started four years ago, Nolan and Hickey have played together in every regular-season match, all 52 of them, and teamed up three times in the Guimares tourney.

And they have anchored the young program for all four years, helping the Warriors grow from a new team of seven players in 2014 to this year’s roster of 19.

“They have been the absolute rocks of the program. They’ve helped build the template of what the team is going to be for years to come,” said head coach Stuart Waack. “What these two have meant for girls golf in Wilton, I think that’s the legacy they leave for the team. They created a team for other players to come into.”

The two have definitely put girls golf on the map at WHS — and helped open the door that other girls can now walk through.

“I’ve definitely seen a growth in interest. Starting from when we were freshmen, we were struggling to have a team at all, and now we have a JV and a varsity team, which is great to see,” said Hickey. “We both recruited a bunch of our friends, and they’ve gotten their friends.”

“I think we’re all really thankful that we’ve been given this opportunity. And we’ve helped build this team for the past four years. We’ve recruited a lot of girls,” said Nolan. “It’s really come a long way since the first year.”

Both girls have seen significant improvement in their scores over their four years. Nolan dropped from a 55 average as a freshman to 40.7 this season, while Hickey dropped from 51 to 45.2.

“That’s such a compliment to these two girls and the effort they’ve put in to become better players,” Waack said earlier this season.

Wilton has grown from a team that won only one match its first season to a team that has made the state tournament the last two seasons. After three wins the first two years, the Warriors have notched eight wins in 2016 and 2017.

Having a girls golf team definitely changed both girls’ high school years. Both had played before WHS (both are members of Shorehaven Country Club) but having a school team brought a new perspective — and focus — to their games.

Freshman year was my first time playing competitively, so that was fun a great opportunity for me to grow as a player,” said Hickey.

When I heard there was going to be a team coming out of eighth grade, going into high school, I really wanted to play a spring sport as well as swim,” said Nolan, who up that point was focused more on swimming than golf.

Since making golf her main focus, Nolan has become one of the top golfers in the state — and was the first Warrior to make the all-state team this year.

Nolan has set many Wilton milestone along the way. She was the first Warrior to qualify for FCIACs (as a sophomore) and the first to earn first-team all-FCIAC honors — which she did as a junior and senior. This year she became the first Wilton High girl golfer to qualify for the New England championships next week.

Her next stop will be Sacred Heart University, where she will play golf on the D1 level.

“It’s all really been coach Waack and (athletic director Chris) McDougall. If it wasn’t for them there wouldn’t have been the opportunity for girls golf in Wilton,” she said. “(Coach Waack) really fostered my love for the game of golf.”

For Waack, the most remarkable thing about his two captains is their commitment — that they never missed a match over their four years of varsity play.

“It’s love of the game. You want to be there for your teammates,” said Hickey. “As much as you want to do well for yourself, you want to do well for the team.”

“It definitely took a lot of commitment. When I was a swimmer I definitely had to scramble a lot of times from off the golf course to practice,” said Nolan. “I think it’s important to be dedicated and to show up and to show that you’re interested, and that just showing up to practices and hard work pays off.”

Both girls feel the Wilton program will continue to grow in the years to come.

“I definitely think we have strong juniors like Maya Fazio and Sophia Kammerman. I have faith in them that they’ll be able to continue to grow the program,” said Hickey.

“And we have Madeline Pennino, who’s a freshman,” Nolan said. “She’s going to be really able to lead the girls the next three years because she’s had the experience of playing with upper classmen. So I think she’s going to help continue to grow Wilton girls golf.”

Growing girls golf has always been the goal for coach Waack — and no players have done more to advance the cause in Wilton than Hickey and Nolan. They will be missed, he said.

“We worked toward the same goal together and it was was a pleasure to do it with them,” he said