The Charger Blog

University’s Women’s Golf Team Charges Through Inaugural Season

The new team includes athletes of all levels of experience who are charged up to be part of the University’s first women’s golf team. They’re excited to build their skills on the golf course while helping to build a new program that will create exciting experiences for future Chargers.

September 23, 2022

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Members of the women's golf team
Left to right: Emily Florin ’26, Abby Hepler ’25, Mackenzie Gardner ’25, Danielle Jastrab ’26, and Hannah Catallo-Stooks ’24 M.S.

Danielle Jastrab ’26 started playing golf during her first year of high school. Originally, it was the idea of driving the golf cart around that attracted her to the sport, but it was the passion for the game and the connections she developed with her teammates that kept her year after year.

Jastrab, who hails from northern California, was originally planning to move to the southern part of the state to play for Matt Ward, then head coach for San Diego Christian College in Santee, CA. When Ward moved to Connecticut to become the inaugural coach for the University of New Haven’s new golf program, Jastrab decided to also become a Charger. She is now one of the first members of the Chargers women’s golf team.

“I’m excited to be in a new state, and I like Connecticut,” said Jastrab, a biology major. “The best part of the team is how we all come together. It’s all about being a family.”

This season is the team’s first, and the student-athletes are already improving – or, in some cases, learning – their game while competing in tournaments. While some such as Jastrab have many years of experience, other players, including Hannah Catallo-Stooks ’24 M.S., are new to the sport. After playing Division I softball as an undergraduate student, she’s ready to take a swing at golf, and she started playing when she joined the team at the start of the semester.

“I hope to learn the sport now so that I can play it as I get older and it can be a hobby,” said Catallo-Stooks, a candidate in the University’s graduate program in cybersecurity and networks. “Being a part of this team is a little different from when I played softball because my teammates are younger, and I’ve been able to grow as a leader. I’ve enjoyed helping them navigate college and being a mentor.”

Hannah Catallo-Stooks ’24 M.S. and Coach Matt Ward talking.
Hannah Catallo-Stooks ’24 M.S. and Coach Matt Ward.
‘Improving my game’

The team will be playing during the fall and then returning to the course again in the spring. They’ll be competing in more than half a dozen tournaments and traveling for competitions. They recently returned from Syracuse, and they are looking forward to competing throughout the northeast later in the season. They practice regularly with the men’s team, which Ward also coaches, at Race Brook Country Club in Orange, Conn., just a short drive from the University.

Emily Florin ’26, who has played golf for around three years, served as the captain of her Masuk High School team in Monroe, Conn., during her senior year. She was planning to join the University’s club golf team, and she was excited when she found out the Chargers would be launching a varsity women’s golf team.

“It’s very different from playing at the high school level,” said Florin, a paramedicine major. “We get to travel out of state for tournaments. I’m looking forward to meeting new people, learning new skills, and improving my game.”

Emily Florin ’26 takes a swing with a golf club.
Emily Florin ’26 takes a swing.
‘They’ll leave their mark’

It was the chance to build her golf skills that initially drove Mackenzie Gardner ’25 to join the team. While she has experience played lacrosse, ice hockey, and soccer, golf gave her an opportunity to try something new – something that she expects will help her on and off the golf course.

“As a finance major, I know many deals are made on the golf course,” she explains. “I wanted to make sure I wasn’t left out, and it was a sport I’d always wanted to learn. My goal is to get comfortable on the golf course and really understand it. There’s lots to learn besides how to swing a club. You learn patience, how to get along with others, and confidence.”

That’s exactly what Ward, the team’s coach, is hoping for. Now in his eighth year as a golf head coach and his 12th year of coaching overall, he’s excited to be coaching the University’s first women’s team, and he looks forward to the experiences the team will have this season and beyond.

“On the course they grow as golfers and as people,” he said. “These aren’t just teammates – they may become lifelong friends. In another decade or so, they’ll be able to point to the team and say, ‘I started that. I helped get that program going.’ They’ll leave their mark, and it will be incredible for them to have that kind of pride in what they’ve done.”

Mackenzie Gardner ’25, a finance major.
Mackenzie Gardner ’25, a finance major.
‘I am so happy the University now has a team’

Ward hopes to continue to build the women’s golf program. He endeavors to expand its roster and coach the team in more tournaments each season. He also hopes to help diversify the sport, and, in particular, to encourage more women to get involved.

“It’s really exciting the University has added women’s golf – especially at a time when so many schools are eliminating it,” he said. “This is a great avenue for women to get into playing golf. I hope some of them will eventually get into coaching, especially since women are so underrepresented in coaching.”

The team has enabled those who are new to the sport, as well as those who already have a passion for it, to play at the collegiate level and to explore where they’d like playing golf to take them.

That was especially important for Abby Hepler ’25, who didn’t play on a team during her first year at the University. Hepler, whose grandpa used to take her to play golf when she was a kid, was a member of her high school’s team in Poughkeepsie, New York, for three years. She was “so excited” when she found out she’d have the opportunity to play as a Charger.

“I really liked the experience of playing when I was in high school,” said Hepler, a forensic science major. “I am so happy the University now has a team. I’d missed golf last year, and having the chance to be part of a team here is amazing.”

Danielle Jastrab ’26 and Abby Hepler ’25.
Danielle Jastrab ’26 (left) and Abby Hepler ’25.