IRVINGTON, NJ — Irvington High School second-year head golf coach Tom Larranaga has an unbridled passion for the sport of golf.
So it’s no wonder his love of the game has been infectious for his IHS golf team, which won its second straight Super Essex Conference-Colonial Division championship with a 6-0 divisional record.
“This is my second year as the head coach at IHS, and we have won our division and qualified for the state tournament each year,” said Larranga in an email to the Irvington Herald. “(IHS athletic director) Dr. (John) Taylor told me that last year was the first time Irvington had qualified for states in 40 years, so to do it two years in a row has been really rewarding and a great indicator of how hard the team has been working to improve.”
What’s impressive is that Irvington doesn’t possess the experience that other programs have.
“Many of the top programs around the state of New Jersey have the luxury of bringing in kids who have been playing since they were very young,” Larranaga said. “I do not have that luxury, as many of my players are touching a golf club for the first time when they come to me. I take that challenge head on and take great pride in helping my players build their swings and their games.”
Larranaga has been impressed by the performances of his players this spring.
“Coming into this year, we lost our No. 1 player, Tylesa McBean, to graduation. She was a very solid player and our team leaned on her a lot last year for more than her scoring, but her leadership as well,” he said. “I was however lucky to have the other five of my top six returning. Seniors Ashley Rodriguez, Gregory Monice, Marilyn Zaruma and Veniel Henderson, as well as junior Loundy Paul have been very steady and dependable players for me over the last two years. They have all really taken to the game, even starting to watch golf on TV as well as different YouTube videos on their own time to try to improve their swings and technique.”
The Blue Knights also played a tougher schedule that helped them improve their skills.
“We ramped up our schedule a bit this year, playing against teams like Caldwell, Nutley and Cedar Grove,” Larranaga said. “While we did not beat those teams, I think my kids took a lot of valuable information from playing with teams that have been playing since they were little kids. This helped us go undefeated in our division this year and progressively get better as the season went on.”
Larranaga particularly is excited about freshman Tessy Ayeni.
“I think by the time she is a junior, she is going to be one of the better female golfers in Essex County if she continues to put in the work and grow her love for the game,” Larranaga said.
Larranaga, indeed, simply loves coaching his team.
“I truly enjoy coaching these kids; I go to work with a smile on my face knowing we have practice or a match after school every day,” he said. “They really are a great group that I never have to worry about when it comes to academics or behavior; they’re about their business and they make my job easy. I was a basketball player growing up who fell in love with golf when I got to college. I taught myself to play by watching instructional videos and putting in countless hours of practice, and I think that has really helped me work with this group to get their games to the next level. We have enjoyed a good amount of success these past two years, and I really look forward to continuing to put in the work and building this program for sustained success. I have to give a lot of credit to my AD (athletic director), Dr. Taylor, and the superintendent of schools, Dr. April Vauss. They truly care about the success of our golf program and do everything they can to put us in a place to succeed. I know when people think of Irvington they do not necessarily think of golf, but that is something I am trying to change.
“Golf is a very difficult game to play, and it can be very frustrating when you are not seeing immediate results for all the work you put in,” Larranaga added. “The fact that my group has stuck with it and continues to show up every day with a mindset to get better is a great reflection on the character of my kids. Tylesa, Ashley, Greg, Marilyn, Veniel and Loundy have really helped lay the foundation for what and where I want this program to be, and I truly look forward to the future. Golf is a passion of mine, and helping grow and spread the game is something I am proud to have an opportunity to do.”
Photo Courtesy of IHS Athletics