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Southwest Orange Friday, Sep. 14, 2018 1 year ago

New coach brings impressive résumé to Windermere girls golf | Observer Preps

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Maria Castellucci was once one of the best junior golfers in the nation. Now, as new head coach of the girls program at Windermere High, she hopes to pass on her knowledge to the Lady Wolverines.
by: Steven Ryzewski Senior Sports Editor

The youngest of seven sisters — the “Golfing Castelluccis,” her father called them — Maria Castellucci has been competitive about golf since she picked up the game at age 2.

One of the most decorated junior golfers in Central Florida history, Castellucci spent her teen years stacking up junior tour wins and All-American recognitions — whether it was from Ping, Golf Magazine or another publication.

Maria Castellucci

She briefly attended Dr. Phillips High, where she is still tied for the girls golf program’s record for lowest round, and finished her career at Oak Ridge High, where she was the No. 1 for the boys golf team.

In 1990, when she was a senior, the American Junior Golf Association recognized her an award given to the player with the lowest stroke-average throughout the year. The winner of the girls award, she was flown to New York, where she met the player who had won the boys award — a promising teenage golfer named Tiger Woods.

Regarded as one of the best — if not the best — junior golfer in the country in 1990, Castellucci went on to play for Florida State University and later on the LPGA Futures’ Tour (now the Symetra Tour) and the LPGA.

It’s safe to say Castellucci — the new head coach for the girls golf program at Windermere High — brings valuable experience to the Lady Wolverines.

And through the beginning stretch of the season, at least, she is having a blast leading the team.

“I love it — I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Castellucci said. “My girls are great.”

Castellucci comes to Windermere from The Master’s Academy in Oviedo, where she had been hired to coach the girls program. When the small private school did not have enough girls to field a varsity team, she instead served as an assistant to the boys team. Eric Bacon, who is the boys coach at Windermere, also worked previously at The Master’s Academy. When the Wolverines were in need of girls coach, he recommended Castellucci.

“When this opportunity came up, to actually be able to coach a competitive girls team, I was excited — I couldn’t wait,” Castellucci said.

Castellucci has taken over a program that, despite being in its second year of existence, already has expectations. The team nearly missed out on making it to state in 2017 and won district and Metro West Conference championships. 

“I can help them with nerves and golf-course management. Things that took me forever to learn, I can pass on to them at an early stage.”

In addition to her extensive experience as a player, though, Castellucci said she is confident she can help her girls with the mental side of golf. After all, she has a doctoral degree in counseling and psychology.

“Not only can I help them develop their games, but I can also help them develop their minds,” she said. “I can help them with nerves and golf-course management. Things that took me forever to learn, I can pass on to them at an early stage.”

The Wolverines’ new coach is excited but also busy. Castellucci is a full-time program supervisor at Eckerd Connects Project Bridge, a program that helps youth who were in residential juvenile justice programs transition back into their communities. She owns a business, Kiddie Kaddie, helps out with US Kidz Golf in Orlando and does instruction.

It all makes for several spinning plates, but she said her team has been understanding — and helpful.

“Believe me, there are things that fall through the cracks,” Castellucci said. “That’s one of the things I love about this team — the girls help me, as well as the parents. I really have a great group here.”

More than anything else, Castellucci said her goals for the program center around getting her girls to college and competing for Division I and Division II college programs. 

Of course, as competitive as she as a junior and collegiate golfer, she wants her girls to win, too.

“I wish I could say I’ve mellowed with age, but I’m still about as competitive as you can be,” Castellucci said with a laugh. “I want them to win — I want them to do well. These girls can do it.”

Steven Ryzewski is the Senior Sports Editor for ObserverPreps.com, as well as all three of Observer Media Group's print publications in Orange County. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida....

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