New job leads Merati to resign as RHS boys golf coach
After being named head coach of the Ridgefield High boys golf team, Mike Merati contacted one of the team’s returning players, who had been chosen as a captain.
“I asked him about the team, and he told me they had lost a lot of seniors,” said Merati. “He also said their record was 9-9 the season before and they were probably looking at another .500 season. I told him that wasn’t going to cut it.”
During his eight seasons as head coach, Merati — a business/finance teacher at Ridgefield High who recently resigned to take another job in Shelton — and his team kept a wide berth from mediocrity. The Tigers compiled a 128-21-1 overall record and won two Division I state championships. In addition to those two titles, Ridgefield had four other top-five finishes at the Division I tournament.
“It’s been a great run and I’ve been fortunate to have coached a lot of outstanding players,” said Merati, who is leaving to become a curriculum leader (teacher/evaluator) of the CTE (Career and Technical Education) program at Shelton High School and Shelton Intermediate School (grades 7-8), which share the same campus. “Choosing to move on wasn’t an easy decision, but after taking career goals and other considerations into mind, it seemed like the right step.”
Merati’s first state title came in 2011, his second year as head coach. Led by Dan Myers and Corey Birch, Ridgefield finished four strokes ahead of Greenwich to win the Division I championship at the Timberlin Golf Club in Berlin.
On the same course four seasons later, a team featuring Jon Spicci and Connor Looney topped Greenwich by two strokes to add another state title for the Tigers.
“The two years were much different,” said Merati. “In 2011, we were seeded fifth (for the state tournament) and flew a little under the radar. In 2015, we were seeded first and had to play with the target on our backs.”
Including Myers (Connecticut), Birch (Connecticut) and Spicci (St. John’s), nine of Merati’s players have gone on to compete in college. “Those were the three D1 guys, but six other guys — Brady Garrett, Rory Mazur, John Maiolo, Hunter Tuccio, Pat Budicini, and Matt Bornstein (a 2017 RHS graduate) — have also played, or are playing, in college. And there are other players, like (2017 graduate) Connor Looney, who decided not to play in college but definitely had the talent.”
Merati is hopeful that Ridgefield’s next head coach will have elevated goals similar to those he set when taking over the team.
“Other coaches said that Ridgefield had had some very good teams but wasn’t a consistently strong program,” said Merati. “I wanted to get us on that same level as the best teams … Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan … in the FCIAC and the state. I think we did that.”