The late Jim Day, longtime wrestling coach and director of athletics at Berlin High School, would often hear people refer to Berlin as a “baseball town” or a “football town.” But in Day’s mind, there was no doubt that Berlin was actually a “golf town.”
The facts bear this out.
Over the last 20 years, the BHS girls golf program has claimed six state championships – including in 2022 and 2023 – and finished second at the state tournament three times. During that same period, the BHS boys golf team has collected eight state titles and two runner-up finishes.
Jim Bryers helped start the BHS girls golf program while he was leading the Berlin boys team. At first, the girls participated in the Connecticut State Girls Golf League, and special rules were in place because the level of play at that time was not very good.
Even then, led by players like Rebecca Collis, Lindsay Ryan and Ally Tetreault, the Lady Redcoats were tough. And Berlin’s dominance in the Girls Golf League would continue behind future NCAA Division I players such as Amy Bordonaro, Amy Francolino and Jen Rudy.
Finally, in 2003, the CIAC included girls golf as an official sport, and with teams from Fairfield County joining the fray, the competition became stiff.
In 2006, powered by Samantha Bashaw and Erica Barnes, who would continue her career at Division I Hofstra University, Berlin would finish as state runner-up.
The Berlin girls’ first CIAC championship came in 2011, with Julia Kemmling, Victoria Fagan and Alyssa Scheyd leading the way.
With Coach Jim Barnes at the helm, the Lady Redcoats would also win state titles in 2012 and 2013, and they placed second in 2014. Also starring on those teams were Ashley D’Attilio, Emily Stickel and Abby Underwood.
Fagan went on to play at Division I Long Island University, Scheyd at Division I Lehigh University and Kemmling at D-I Quinnipiac University.
In 2021, Jessica Nappi and Rachel Varley helped Berlin land a second-place finish at the state tournament. From there, the Lady Redcoats would earn back-to-back state titles, the second one coming this spring. Those teams were powered by Kenna Roman and Libby Dunn. Berlin’s stellar starting five also included Molly Szczesniak, Samantha Dunn and Charley Carlson.
“We knew playing for Berlin golf was serious, we knew there were good golfers and there were going to be cuts, so it was some pressure,” said Roman, who will continue her playing career at Division I Stonehill University in the fall. “The last few years we knew we were going to have a really good team because we had Libby and Sam, and most teams don’t have that many good golfers. This season was really great, and we played pretty well every match.”
Roman said, being a senior, “I wanted to make sure we went out on the right note.”
“I remember some of the girls that played at Berlin High School, and I thought they were superheroes when I was growing up,” she said. “To have my name up there with them is really cool, and I hope it keeps Berlin girls golf rolling.”
Another member of the Class of 2023, Libby Dunn, said, “That first state championship [in 2022] came with no seniors, so we knew we had a chance to win it again this year.”
Dunn claimed two individual State Open titles during her time at BHS and was named Golfer of the Year by CTInsider. Her sister, Samantha Dunn, was a sophomore this season. “We knew when we finished second [in 2021] that we had a chance to be good,” Libby Dunn said, “and then with my sister coming in, and her coming off playing competitive golf, we had a chance to win it.”
Libby Dunn will attend Texas Christian University in the fall, where she will play golf on a club team. “I thought about playing college golf and I pursued it for a while and took several college visits, but after seeing TCU, I fell in love with the campus and the people and what they offered academically,” she said, “and I decided that club golf was just a better avenue for me.”
With the graduation of Kenna Roman, Libby Dunn and Molly Szczesniak, next spring, rising juniors Samantha Dunn and Charley Carlson will form the nucleus of the BHS girls golf team.
That’s how dynasties are born; great players move on, and other greats fill their spots.
“It warms my heart knowing that there are young players out there that might want to be like me,” Libby Dunn said. “Whenever I see young players at Timberlin, I try to stop and talk to them and help them … It’s really cool to think they might look up to me or one of the other girls.”