Ward uses golf experience as Syracuse’s composed senior leader
Logan Reidsma | Staff Photographer
During the summers when Billy Ward was growing up, he spent 11 hours each day competing in the hot Syracuse sun.
But Ward wasn’t practicing lacrosse. He was playing golf.
“Golf was my main sport growing up,” Ward said. “I think that’s where I get a lot of my competitive spirit from.”
Ward, now a senior captain for Syracuse (5-3, 1-3 Atlantic Coast), is a level-headed leader for a team looking to bounce back from three losses to start its conference schedule. He ranks sixth on the team with 11 goals, while also handing out three assists.
Yet Ward didn’t develop his composure on the lacrosse field. Rather, he grew it as one of the top golfers in the area when he was at C.W. Baker High School in Baldwinsville, N.Y.
“I think all sports are pretty similar,” Ward said. “It’s the same mental toughness, whether I’m playing golf or lacrosse, you got to do what you got to do. You got to bring that mental toughness to it.”
When Ward was 10 years old, his best friend and next-door neighbor, Billy Markey, encouraged him to take up golf. Markey was 3 years older, but the two had always played sports together in their backyards.
When Ward first started playing, he couldn’t control shots. But he was a fast learner, and became one of the few players in the history of C.W. Baker’s golf program to make the varsity team as an eighth-grader.
By the time he was 14, he was scoring in the 70s on an 18-hole course.
“His work ethic from what he has now in college at SU,” Markey said, “I think it really did come from golf. He was probably a better golfer than he ever was a lacrosse player.”
At Baker, he excelled at both sports, but they’d sometimes conflict. Golf was a fall sport at C.W. Baker, but the sectionals took place in the spring. In Ward’s junior year, he had to compete in a golf tournament in the afternoon, and make it back for a lacrosse playoff game that night.
“He controls his emotions on the field,” Markey said, “and I think that attributes from the game of golf.”
Around the time that Markey graduated, Ward started to focus more on lacrosse. It was what colleges were looking at him for, and he had to oblige.
The summers that he’d once spent out on the course were replaced with travel teams and offseason preparation.
And while he’s only started one game this season at Syracuse and doesn’t put up flashy numbers like a lot of his teammates, Ward’s experience in both sports has made him invaluable for the Orange.
“I really can’t say enough about Billy Ward and what he does for us,” senior goalie Dominic Lamolinara said. “He’s great.”
In the spring — when he finds time in his busy lacrosse schedule — Ward packs up his golf clubs and heads over to Drumlins Country Club in Syracuse to play against his teammates.
He modestly insists that several others on the team are just as good as he is, but even SU head coach John Desko said Ward has a reputation of being an elite golfer.
Sometimes, though, he doesn’t want to compete against anyone and goes alone to clear his head.
He may be a lacrosse player at the collegiate level, but golf will always be a passion.
“Lacrosse gave me what I craved when I was playing golf,” Ward said. “I loved the team sport, I loved being around these guys. Lacrosse gave me that.
“I love golf, though. It’s you. You make a mistake; it’s on you. I think I’ve taken a lot of great things from both sports.”
Published on April 1, 2014 at 1:00 am