Four simple words were all it took for Bishop Hendricken senior Ricky Angeli to shake off his nerves and turn his performance around.
“Your Team Needs You.”
Hendricken golf coach Rick Angeli had witnessed this scenario before and was determined not to let it happen again. It was the second day of the Rhode Island Interscholastic League State Golf Championship and the Hawks were in trouble. Ricky, the coach’s son and the Hawks’ top golfer, was in trouble, too.
Ricky, a two-time second team All-Stater, had shot his best score (72) of the season on the opening day of the two-day tournament at Cranston Country Club. Day 2 was a different story.
Hendricken entered Day 2 a stroke behind a very solid East Greenwich team. Ricky, who was in the hunt for the individual title, was having a rough outing on the second day. Coach Angeli could clearly see nerves were taking over his son’s performance.
“I was six over on the back nine,” said Ricky. “I wasn’t playing well..”
It had happened before. Nerves had taken over in the state championship when Ricky was both a freshman and sophomore. A senior captain, this was his last shot at a championship – something that eluded Ricky throughout his entire high school career..
Golf may be an individual sport, but Ricky prefers to focus on the team rather than himself. His team approach – fueled by a few simple words from his dad – turned his day around.
“My dad came out (to the 10th hole) and said, ‘Your team needs you.’”
That was all Ricky needed to hear.
He responded with three birdies over the last seven holes to lead Hendricken to its sixth state championship, a six-stroke victory over East Greenwich. Ricky shot a 77 and finished fourth overall.
“After my dad told me my team needed me, I just relaxed,” said Ricky. “I just went out there thinking each shot matters for the team. My score is most likely going to count for my team. I need to do this for my team. I was able to loosen up and reel it in for my team. I didn’t worry about my place, I just wanted to play well. In past years in the states I hadn’t performed how I wanted. I just wanted to put two good rounds together and help my team.”
Congrats to our All State and All Division golfers, Ricky Angeli ‘21 1st Team Coaches All State, 1st Team All Div, Brady Williams ‘22 2nd Team Coaches All State, 1st Team All Div, Andrew Chadwick ‘23 1st Team All Div and Harry Grimes ‘21 2nd Team All Div. @HendrickenAth pic.twitter.com/jj0svDLykC
— BHHSHAWKSGOLF (@bhhsgolf) June 10, 2021
(Senior co-captain) Harry Grimes was playing great. Brady Williams, playing in his first state championship, shot 76, which was really good. Andrew Chadwick was steady,” said Coach Angeli “It was time for Ricky to do this.”
And he did.
“I want to prove to people that I can play well. Coming in freshman year people had a lot of expectations,” said Ricky. “I was the freshmen coming in and hadn’t played well in the spotlight. This is my senior year. This is the time to go out with a bang.
“We lost by a point to Wheeler in 2019 and didn’t play last year because of Covid. It was very important to go out and try to win this state championship,” said Ricky .”It was a very fun season. We had a great team and lots of fun together. Good way to finish high school career.”
“Three weeks earlier, we weren’t in a great place chemistry-wise,” said Rick Angeli. “In order to win, we had to become more of a family. The kids responded. They started pulling for each other. It was less individual and more as a team. It was really great to see.. They came together at the most important time.”
Ricky’s journey, including the balance of playing for his dad, was often challenging. He has been playing golf since he was four. He adapted quickly and by the time he entered Hendricken he was one of the top golfers in the state. The pressure came with that.
His dad has coached golf since 2013. He has coached hockey even longer. An assistant hockey coach at Hendricken, he often brings a tough hockey mentality on the golf course.
“We have a special bond,” said Ricky. “At times there was added pressure (with his dad as coach), but as I matured and we communicated more I think the pressure began to fade away. I was used to the hockey mentality.”
‘It’s how I’m wired,” said Coach Rick. “I know it’s not always the right approach. I’ve learned a lot.”
The father/son balance has not always been easy.
“When he’s not playing up to his capability I let him know it. And sometimes I let him know it right on the course. I’m used to hockey,” said Angeli. “If a kid comes off a shift you let him know right then and there, but golf is different. Different mentality. I’ve gotten in his face and failed a few times.”
Not this time. When he feared his son was in trouble he headed out on the course and said four simple words:
“Your team needs you.”
“It’s never been (about) his physical ability to play golf. It’s been an inability to channel that anxiety that delivers positive results. He channeled it well this time. I’m so proud of him and this team.,” said Angeli.
He let his son know.
“When I putted out on 18 he said, ‘you showed me something today,” said Ricky.
Rick Angeli was overwhelmed with emotion. The tough, hockey mentality was nowhere to be found.
“I have never seen him like that,” said Ricky.
“It’s not about golf. It’s about how you are going to handle yourself in the face of adversity. He showed me something..maturity, perseverance, grit,” said Angeli.
“We talk about it all the time. You make a double bogey…are you going to pout about it because some day your boss is going to tell you your work isn’t good enough. Are you going to pout then or do what you need to get better?” said Angeli. ”We always talk about what you are going to do to get better.”
A National Honor student, Ricky is heading to Boston College. He may try to walk on the golf team. The pressure is gone. The state championship memory will remain.
“With all the issues around us during the season…the shortened season and wearing masks. There was a lot to deal with especially after losing by one sophomore year and not being able to have a junior year season,” said Ricky. “It feels great to leave Hendricken hoisting the championship trophy in the air.”
A week after the state championship, the father and son teamed up in the 72nd Four-Ball Championship at Valley Country Club. With no pressure of a state title on the line, they turned in strong performances and shot 4 under finishing fourth overall.
“It was awesome,” said Angeli. “We had a lot of fun and really supported each other. That helped (us both) to play well.”