By Rich Fisher, Correspondent
There was a time in his youth when Tim Sewnig would pray to make good shots on the golf course.
“I’ve said rosaries during tournaments,” he said with a laugh, “Then I decided that God had better things to worry about than junior golf.”
Sewnig is now the ultra-successful golf coach at Christian Brothers Academy, Lincroft, where he still prays for issues concerning his team. But they are different from what he asked God for in his younger years.
“We’ve never prayed to win,” Sewnig said. ““But we have prayed for other things, like if a kid’s brother is sick or some such thing. But as far as faith – it’s more in the post-analysis than in the pre. I believe there is such a thing as a good loss, and sometimes God brings us losses once in a while to straighten our heads out. And that’s something we can chat about on the bus ride home.”
The Hamilton Township resident is also CBA’s Campus Minister, and uses prayer for his own strength in leading young athletes and showing them the right way.
“Absolutely; it’s my motivator,” said Sewnig, a parishioner in St. Raphael-Holy Angels, Hamilton. “I stopped praying on the golf course as far as results go. But I’m constantly praying to give me the right attitude, like, sometimes dealing with loss. We lost a tough one, then you’re praying for the strength to be able to look at your guys and say, ‘OK let’s go shake hands with this team we don’t like and let’s show them what it means to be good Christian losers.’”
Sewnig has not had to use that prayer too often in the past 24 years. Since taking over the position from Brother Andrew O’Gara in 1994, Tim has produced a program that can safely be described as a dynasty.
Under his leadership, the Colts are 351-24 (a .936 winning percentage) with six NJSIAA Tournament of Champion titles and nine Non-Public A championships. They have not lost a dual meet in nine years, having won 111 straight.
This past season was business as usual, as CBA went 16-0 and won the TOC by becoming the fourth team in state history to shoot a sub-300 score. Sophomore Jack Wall won the individual team title by breaking a tie with then-senior teammate Chris Gotterup, who will play for Rutgers next year. CBA’s Ben Steenland will also play Division I golf at Wagner, and Wall is verbally committed to South Carolina.
Rounding out the team were captain Manny Lazzaro, who is headed for the University of Notre Dame for academics, sophomore Brendan Hansen, senior Kyle Hayes and junior Michael Paduano.
“We had depth on this team like you wouldn’t believe,” Sewnig said.
Thanks to all this talent, Sewnig received national acclaim by being named the All-USA Boys Golf Coach of the Year by USA Today. And while he was flattered to receive the award, he would just as soon chop it into pieces and give it to coaches throughout the state.
“I’ve got to be honest, what it means is they value winning too much,” he said of the award. “I’ve heard golf coaches up in Newark who are borrowing clubs from their buddies to teach kids the game and they’ll never get that honor of Coach of the Year because they don’t win. It’s nice to get the honor, but the truth of the matter is there are a lot more deserving guys out there. We won because I’ve got a great team, a good bunch of kids who can really golf.
“It’s not all about winning. I’ve known a lot of guys who, over the years in our own conference and throughout the state who deserve a lot more attention for what they do for the game and what they do for their athletes. But they don’t get the attention because they haven’t won a state title, or whatever the standard is.”
What it comes down to in Sewnig’s mind is keeping his players’ heads on straight. Nearly all of them arrive with talent that he does not want to mess with.
“One of the differences in high school athletics (compared to the past) is kids come in ready to play the game,” he said. “I wouldn’t, if I could, say let’s change your swing now. Whatever the kid’s got working for him is good enough for me.
“There’s not a lot of that kind of coaching that goes on. There’s some psychologizing; kids are kids and they need to keep their focus on the game and nothing else when they’re on the course. We talk about the course dynamics on the way to the course.”
Although that doesn’t quite work out sometimes.
“Frequently it’s like ‘Whatever you do don’t take the driver out on the first hole,’ and then you look up and two of your guys have a driver out,” Sewnig said with a laugh. “But that’s part of what makes it fun, they’re kids.”
They are kids who have helped Sewnig succeed, but it works both ways. No program can be so incredibly outstanding without the positive guidance he provides. It is no accident he became so successful, considering what he learned from his predecessor.
“I was helping out Brother Andrew when I got there,” Sewnig said. “He was spectacular. He also had kind of an attitude of ‘It’s how we do things that count a lot more than what we do.’ When he retired his record was 169-34 and he won state titles back to back in 1985-86. I’ve never even done that. He was a great guy and I think he taught me a lot about coaching.”