WEST ORANGE, NJ – As a sports fan, one of the greatest joys for Seton Hall Prep senior Charlie Smollen was watching the Cubs win the 2016 World Series over the Indians. After all, Smollen grew up in Chicago, just minutes away from Wrigley Field.
But as an athlete, the top thrill for Smollen came last month at the Essex County Golf Tournament at Weequahic Golf Course in Newark. The conditions were tough due to cold and wind (Chicago-type weather), but Smollen fired a 78 to place third and spark the Pirates to the team championship by nine strokes over Livingston.
Smollen, who is joined on the team by his younger cousin Matt, is the choice for the Worrall Community Newspapers Athlete of the Month for April. Also considered were West Orange golfer Tyler Galantini, who placed second in the county event, Nutley baseball player Marty Higgins, East Orange track and field performer Akeem Lindo, and Seton Hall Prep lacrosse player Griffin Westlin.
“Charlie is just a very solid golfer,” said SHP head coach Kevin Williams, who keeps busy in the winter coaching the Pirates in basketball. “Charlie has done a nice job for us every year he’s been on the team.”
Because of poor weather conditions, SHP had only two matches heading into the ECT. But the Seton Hall kids still felt confident that they would make a good showing.
Smollen, who can hit the ball a long way off the tee despite his small statue (5-7, 140), fired a 39 on each nine. His cousin, a junior, finished with a score of 80 and then senior Dan Samtani with an 82 and budding freshman star Marco Zando with an 85. Sophomore Conor Handley had a 90, but only the first four scores count toward the team total.
“I had a double bogey on a par-4 and that frustrated me a bit,” said Smollen. “But I think I played fairly well.”
Smollen, who has great respect for golfing legend Sam Snead, as well as current PGA stars Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson, figured to become a pretty good golfer. His father, John, is a very good scratch golfer, and has an amazing seven hole-in-ones to his credit.
“Well, at least I have one hole-in-one to my credit,” cracked Smollen, whose favorite subject in school is math. “My big goal in the game right now is to shoot a round in the 60s. This sport is tough because every course presents different challenges.”
The golf squad at SHP plays its home matches at two different locations in West Orange, Essex County Country Club and Rock Spring.
Weequahic is a short course, but still presents a challenge. The course is a
“On any course, you don’t want to hit your ball into the trees,” said the personable SHP senior. “In reality, you have to really concentrate every time you hit the ball. I’m working hard to improve on my iron shots, particularly with approaches to the putting green. I’m pretty confident with my putting stroke.”
Smollen, who plans to become a post-graduate student at Peddie School and then possibly attend Illinois University in the late summer of 2019, thinks SHP has a chance to do well in the states later this month, and possibly qualify for the State Tournament of Champions event.
“We have a pretty good team this year,” said Smollen, who one day may go into the field of marketing. “I mean a guy like Marco is so mature and he’s only a freshman. Dan is a great guy to watch because he can make things look so easy at times, even in difficult situations.”
PIRATE PLANKS – Smollen now lives in the suburbs, but enjoyed the city life in Chicago… As a sophomore, Smollen also wrestled at SHP.