Noel Teter | Sports Writer
Just as soon as the Eastern Connecticut State University Warriors golf team was reinstated, its players got used to winning. The fall of 2020 saw a new beginning for golfers at Eastern, as the team made its return after 38 years. Its only competitive action during that COVID-hampered fall season was a virtual tournament in which several teams in the LEC played their home courses and submitted scores. Eastern won comfortably. As COVID restrictions began to fall away, Eastern’s victories started getting bigger. In the spring of 2021, Eastern won its first real match over a formidable LEC opponent in Rhode Island College. The next week, the Warriors found themselves victorious in their first Little East Conference tournament (this was not counted as an official championship because too many teams had to withdraw due to COVID). Eastern entered the fall of 2021 as the favorite to win the LEC Championship. After victories in its first three matches of the season, the team headed to Rutland, Vermont and did just that. With such an impressive track record in such a short existence, Eastern has become an attractive destination for high-level high-school golfers looking to join a winning Division III program and have a wonderful time doing so. How far from Eastern does the team’s attraction extend? The answer lies in an 18-year- old first-year player from Windham… Windham, Maine, that is. Ryan Silva’s game has often been overshadowed by the team’s other two first-year players, Cal Angelo, and Chris Davidson, both of whom traveled with the team’s top 5 players to the LEC and New England Intercollegiate Golf Association (NEIGA) Championships last fall. However, Silva’s game improved significantly over the course of that fall, and few on the team will be surprised if it continues to do so this spring. Improvement is nothing new for Silva, who was his high school team’s most improved player in his junior and senior seasons. This improvement is the result of hard work that comes from a desire to get better. At Eastern’s driving range practices, he can often be seen taking many slow-motion backswings to ingrain more efficient positions into his swing. The results? In the two matches in which he appeared last fall, Silva shot scores of 83 and 85, respectable contributions from an under-the-radar first-year. As a hard worker who enjoys golf and improvement, Eastern’s team made sense for Silva. He states simply, “I wanted to play golf, definitely.” Also, as a student who “wanted to get out of state,” Eastern’s location was very attractive to him. Since arriving in Willimantic, Silva has struck a rapport with Davidson, who is also his roommate. The two are an accountable duo on and off the course, both with grade point averages in the 3.8 range. They practice together regularly; Silva states that he and Davidson have scheduled to practice together “at least three times a week”. Accountability is a core value of even the youngest players on the Eastern golf team. Silva does not play a flashy game, as he doesn’t hit the ball as far as many of his first-and second-year counterparts. More importantly, he does not pretend to be a different player, and this approach can be plenty effective. He recounts a recent round with Davidson and Eastern’s top player, reigning LEC champion Ashton Lewis. On the seventh hole, both Silva and Lewis hit good drives, Silva’s drive ending up “50 or 60 yards behind” that of the long-hitting Lewis. Unfazed, Silva made birdie on the hole. In fact, all three players did. There are no pictures on the scorecard. Silva’s approach to the golf swing is homegrown and somewhat unique. He started athletically as a baseball player (he claims he still has some baseball in his backswing), and he “started playing golf in high school.” He never took a golf lesson in high school, meaning that he was left to his own devices to figure out his own swing mechanics. Silva sums up this complicated endeavor in simple terms: “It was just experimenting and trying to find a good swing.” Silva found his swing in high school and grooved it to the tune of a 10 handicap. As we walked down the eighth fairway in our first spring practice round, Silva and I talked about our excitement to watch the Masters Tournament that week. Silva remembered saying recently that “the beginning of April is going to be so good,” with the first week of team practices for the April season coinciding with the Masters. On the next hole, our last of the day, Silva hit his best shot of the day: a low-flighted wedge that started left and faded back toward the flagstick, landing five feet away. Then, he made the putt. At that rate, Silva and the rest of the Warrior golfers are in for a good rest of the month, too. Eastern Golf’s next action will be at home for the Thread City Invitational, which will take place at 12pm on Sunday, May 1 at the Windham Club in North Windham, CT.