Franklin’s #1 Golfer Sets Expectations High
Franklin High Senior CJ Steele found his confidence as a golfer in his first tournament, back in 8th grade. Now, the two-time captain has set high goals for himself and for his fellow Panthers.
By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Franklin’s CJ Steele has been playing golf from a very young age, and the first time he swung a club he pretty much fell in love with the game. The now Panther senior not only found the game fun, but seeing the progress he made with the sport gave him the optimism that he could actually become really good someday.
“I was playing in my first tournament (on the Cape) in the eighth grade when I realized that I had the talent to play. I finished second, and knowing some of the kids on the high school team told me that I had what it takes to play and that I should try out,” Steele said. “I went in very nervous but just stuck to my game; made good shots and visualized those shots and let my swing do the rest.”
Come that September as he entered high school, the incoming freshman made the varsity squad, but with a lot of talented golfers in front of him, he found his spot as the Panther’s number seven golfer. Although he was swinging the clubs on the links for Franklin, he thought that his putting was rather shaky, and he would need to improve upon that if he wanted to move up in the ranks. As a freshman, over nine holes, Steele averaged a 42 that season.
Not wanting to be at the tail end of the golfing rotation, Steele went out and purchased a new putter and began working religiously on his craft, hoping to move up. As his sophomore season began, he quickly found that the hard work paid off, and with Franklin graduating five seniors he was now the Panther’s number one golfer. However, now as the top dog on the team, Steele found himself squaring off against the best of the best in matches, going up against upper classmen.
“I believe that I belonged there, my game stacked up with everyone in the Hock that I went up against. I had a solid game, so I wasn’t worried, and come the end of the year, I think that I was either the 11th or 12th best golfer in the league. The work I put in showed that I was instantly better and ended up reducing my average by three strokes to a 39.”
As Steele played out his sophomore season, Franklin Golf Coach Bob Pingeton noticed that his putting had gotten better, but he still needed to continue to work on it to be the best possible golfer that he can be.
“He is dedicated to the sport, golf is what he is, and he’s all in,” said the Franklin Coach. “He came in as a very good golfer, having played the sport his entire youth, so with that said, there really wasn’t too much room for improvement. He can hit the ball long and good on the fairways, but the only way for him to drop his score is to work on his putting. You can see that he has done that and has putted much better, but he can still improve.”
While his sophomore campaign was considerably better, it was his junior season in which he felt his game went to the next level. Steele prepared for the season by playing in many tournaments during the summer and once again, he found himself walking away with a second-place finish at the Major Championships at Crossland. Only losing by one stroke, Steele considered the match the highlight of the summer, and by the end of his junior year, he was sitting at an average of 38.
Coming into his senior and final season with Franklin, Steele was once again named a captain (he was also a captain as a junior). Being a captain is one thing, but being named a two-time captain has humbled the senior.
“Being named a two-time captain really means a lot to me,” he said. “When I was a freshman, Jack Patterson was a two-time captain, and I want to follow in his shoes, so to speak and encourage the team.”
After qualifying and playing in some really good tournaments this past summer, Steele feels that this is the season, and he’s ready for it. As a team captain, he has set the season’s goals for the Panthers high. He is looking to guide the team to the top of the Hockomock and take home an individual League Championship. (Last year, Franklin tied for the Title with King Philip). Once the Panthers have secured the league, Steele wants to help the team get to the States.
“We definitely have the talent; we just need to all play our game and do our job. There are five of us who can shoot in the 30’s,” he said. “If we go out and do that, then there should be no problem of accomplishing our goals.”
Individually, Steele is hoping to lower his 18-hole average by three or four shots by the end of the season. He noted that he feels really good swinging the club and hopes to be around 36 over nine holes when the season concludes.
Although he still has his senior season in front of him, the Franklin native would eventually like to take his golf game to the next level and play on a college course.
“At this time, I have some ideas (where he would like to play), but nothing specific as of yet. Most likely, I’ll be staying close to home,” Steele said.
Come next fall, there is no doubt that the Franklin golfer will be swinging the clubs for some college, but for right now, he still has the majority of his senior campaign to play out and capture the goals that he and the team have set.