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Cathedral golf on the upswing

NATCHEZ — Four years after head coach Kurt Russ pieced together the Cathedral Green Wave girls’ golf team, he coached his squad to a fourth place finish in the Class 1A Girls State Championship on April 29.

Four years ago, after coming off of a state championship win with the Cathedral boys golf team, Kurt saw an interest grow in his daughter, Chandler Russ.

Chandler, now a junior at Cathedral, told her dad that she wanted to play on a girls’ golf team with the school. There was just one problem though — Chandler needed teammates.

“I said, ‘well, if we can get some girls to play, we’ll have one,’” Kurt said.

Kurt naturally looked toward his good friend’s daughter, Kate Mayo, who was one year younger than Chandler.

“He’s my Godfather, and he was like, ‘Will you please just play? I’ll teach you how to,’” Mayo said.

Kurt said Mayo’s good hand-eye coordination was a perfect fit for the golf course.

“I knew Kate was a pretty good athlete,” Kurt said. “She’s like my other daughter. I knew she could hit the softball, but she didn’t want to play softball. I just said, ‘Hey, come play golf.’”

Mary Katherine Mascagni, who was also the same age as Mayo, found herself bored one summer and decided to try golf, completing the team.

Initial success did not take place for the Green Wave. The first year Chandler was a part of the team did not qualify for the state tournament, The next year the team qualified but failed to finish in the Top 10. However, the team steadily improved and finished in ninth place last season. That set the stage for Chandler to finish eighth overall with a 198 total, for Mayo to claim 12th with a 209 total and for Mascagni to produce a 19th place finish with a 261.

The team totaled a 407 that was one point shy of third place. St. Aloysius won the tournament with a 318.

“It’s been a long road to get there,” Chandler said.

“A lot of hard work,” Mayo added.

To keep the interest of his team, Kurt decided to make his practices both informative and entertaining. By introducing competitions like boys against girls, putting showdowns and a one-shot chance at hitting a ball into a bucket placed on the green, Kurt ignites his team’s competitive nature, especially when the girls claimed a victory over the boys.

“They were beating us by like two strokes, and one hole we came back and beat them by one,” Chandler said. “We rubbed it in their faces for a very long time.”

Kurt is a hands-on teacher that refuses to tell his team to hit balls and call it a day. He gets it naturally, as he spent most of his life on the golf course, both in competition and in the summer.

“When I was a kid we didn’t have computer games,” Kurt said. “What my parents did was drop you at the golf course and that was your babysitter.”

To beat a great St. Aloysius golf team, each player knows what’s required — hours upon hours on the golf course. And though the final results in 2014 may indicate that St. Aloysius is nearly a 100-point favorite over Cathedral, Kurt’s fully confident his team can make a run at the title if they put in the work.

“We shouldn’t beat St. Aloysius,” Kurt said. “But hey, they said that four years ago when my boys upset them in a monumental win. Anything’s possible.”

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