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Sandy Hook’s Sarah Houle Shines at William & Mary

(February 4, 2022) – Entering the final round of the Elon Invitational last September William & Mary senior Sarah Houle was in position to capture her first individual collegiate title. This was a position she had been in before however in her previous attempts she had never been able to seal the deal.

This time it was a different story. 

Houle, a Sandy Hook native, fired a final round 2-under 69 to pull away and capture her first collegiate title. 

“I think the key for me was really focusing on one shot at a time throughout the day,” said Houle who finished 2-under-par for the tournament and entered the William & Mary record books with the fourth-best 54-hole score to par in school history. “The tournament was also memorable because we won as a team as well and that is more special to me because of how well we played, came together, and came from behind.”

Houle was introduced to the game of golf by her father Robert and older brother Josh and the three would often play on weekends. “When I started playing golf my dad and brother made it so much fun for me,” said Houle. Over time Houle’s desire to get better grew and she began to find herself practicing during the week and playing in the interclub events at her home course, Newtown Country Club.

In 2014 Houle entered Newtown High School as a three-sport athlete, competing in soccer at an All-State level, indoor track, and golf. Her primary sport when she began high school was soccer. Along with playing on the high school team she was a member of the Connecticut Football Club competing in a number of college showcase events. However, by the time her sophomore season of soccer concluded she knew it was time to make golf her primary focus. 

“I loved high school soccer but my club team just wasn’t as fun and I wasn’t as motivated to get better at soccer as I was at golf,” said Houle who played four years of high school soccer as a center midfielder. “I just liked golf more. I enjoy practicing and the people that I was able to meet in Connecticut junior golf. It was very enjoyable and it was something that I could see myself doing for the rest of my life. It all came down to what sport I enjoyed more and golf was definitely it.”

Houle’s enjoyment of golf was born out of success. As a freshman Houle was part of the first girl’s varsity golf team in Newton HS history. Previously the team had only competed in junior varsity events but with Houle and a handful of other strong players in her class becoming freshmen the time seemed right to make the jump to the next level. 

In short order, that decision proved to be the correct one. As a freshman, Houle helped lead her team to the South-West Conference championship, the first of four conference titles during her high school career. 

“When the team started we had to deal with a lot of complications,” explained Houle. “We were self-funded so it was hard to get some girls to join. Some years we had an abundance of people and other years we only had 10-12 so that was tough. For me, it was a balance between playing and helping the players that were in the beginning stages of playing the game. I always tried to take time out to help them. It was really an honor to be part of the team that put Newtown girl’s golf on the map.”

The success of the team also helped to put Houle on the map. As the team excelled so did Houle. She earned All-State honors four times, captured the individual state championship as a junior and senior on her way to being named the Connecticut High School Golfer of the Year each of her last two seasons. 

During the same time frame, Houle emerged as one of the top junior players in the state. In 2017 she won the 36-Hole Cas Coscina Junior Invitational, tied for second at the Hartford Open, tied for third at the Connecticut Women’s Amateur, and finished sixth at the Connecticut Junior PGA Championship.

The next year she was even better. Highlighted by a victory at the Connecticut Junior PGA Championship, Houle also earned a top-five finish at the Hartford Women’s Open and placed second at the Connecticut Women’s Amateur. 

At the Connecticut Junior PGA Championship hosted by The Course at Yale Houle fired rounds of 67-71 to finish 2-under and seven shots in front of her closest pursuer. “Yale can be a pretty intimidating course if you haven’t played it before; I let that get to me my first two years,” Houle said to the PressReader following her victory. “I’m not sure if it was how sharp my game was or course familiarity, but I felt really comfortable and was able to remain aggressive.”

Her success in the junior ranks caught the attention of several college programs but for Houle William & Mary in Virginia with its combination of academics and athletics was the perfect fit. 

“I actually visited William & Mary pretty early on. I think I was about 12-years-old and really loved the area. I didn’t want a big city or anything like that but it was really the balance between academics and athletics that drew me in. I really like the girls on the team and my coach Ed Teer so it really has been just a perfect fit.”

Her golf game has also been a perfect fit. Each year her game has steadily improved. But her career for the Tribe has not been without its bumps in the road. Ahead of her sophomore year Houle was playing in an intramural soccer game when she tore her ACL. She had never suffered a major injury and the resulting long road to recovery was difficult at times. 

“I had never been seriously injured so just having to be patient was something completely new to me. I had to train a little bit differently from everyone during workouts. There were times where I felt a little disconnected but everyone was so supportive.”

Gradually Houle worked herself back into the line-up and she ended up playing 13 rounds that season at a record-setting pace. Houle, despite being on an 18 hole restriction during events, posted a 74.92 scoring average which was good for second on the all-time William & Mary single-season scoring list. 

“As much as I loved cheering on my team it was frustrating when I had to be pulled out. I felt like I could play but there was a timeline that I knew I had to stick to.”

Her patience paid off. Last year during her junior season Houle, an Accounting major, earned All-CAA Second Team honors and so far this season she is putting together her best campaign yet. In four events last fall Houle finished inside the top-10 three times including her first career victory at the Elon Invitational. 

But individual success is not what Houle is all about. Every time her personal accolades are brought up her focus almost immediately shifts to the team. “Having a successful team is what really drives me. As a senior, my main goal was to really make everyone feel comfortable and be able to be themselves and want to get better every day.” So far it has been mission accomplished for Houle in that category. In addition to their team victory at the Elon Invitational William & Mary finished third at the Grandover Fall Classic marking two top-three showings during the first half of the season. 

“I have loved college golf. First off just the lifelong bonds that you form with teammates. We are all really close with our coach as well. Traveling to tournaments is just some of the most fun times. We are just all together. Just the comradery and just the community makes it really fun and enjoyable.”

And for Houle that fun and enjoyment won’t come to an end at the completion of her senior year. Houle, who will remain at William & Mary for two more years to earn her MBA and Master’s, has one more season of eligibility remaining due to the championship portion of her sophomore season being canceled due to Covid. 

Not only is that a win for Houle but it is a win for the William & Mary team and university. 

“What I like most about being on the golf course is competing for a team. Competing is my favorite part, just playing for something bigger than me. Playing for the school has been the best experience.”

Hero Photo Courtesy of William & Mary Athletics

About the Connecticut State Golf Association

The Connecticut State Golf Association functions as an extension of the USGA and provides stewardship for amateur golf in Connecticut. Founded in 1899, it is the country’s oldest state golf association and conducts over 60 Championships, Qualifiers, and One Day Tournaments throughout the year.