The Bishop Hendricken golf team has been knocking on the state championship door for the last 11 years, but hasn’t once been able to break through.
After consecutive titles in 2000 and 2001, the Hawks have finished second seven times, fourth twice and third last year. While Barrington has won nine of the last 11, most of them have come at the expense of a Hendricken banner.
This year, the Hawks are in the same position they’ve been in – they’re talented, and they’re deep. But they need to put it all together on the two days in May that decide the state title.
“Our goal is simple – our goal is to win a state championship,” first-year head coach Rick Angeli said on Wednesday. “I think we have the personnel to do that. Barrington is a formidable opponent, and we’re going to have to play our best golf on those days to beat them, but I think we have what it takes.”
Angeli takes over for Joe Cichon, the longtime coach who stepped down after last season. Angeli is a 1984 Hendricken graduate who serves as an assistant hockey coach at the school and plays golf competitively around New England.
Joining his staff as assistant coach is Norm Alberigo, who also serves as the head pro at Agawam Hunt. Together, they’re trying to get the program back to its championship ways.
They kept 16 players on the varsity and 10 more who serve as a junior varsity team and practice with the varsity players a few times a week. They’ve also expanded practice from solely Warwick Country Club to places like Agawam and Potowomut.
It’s all with an eye on winning now and winning in the future.
“Between myself and Norm, we’ve really been able to dig in and work with the kids,” Angeli said. “He’s been a great asset from a teaching perspective and the kids have really been welcoming with some of the things that we’ve brought to them. There’s no way I would be able to do it with this many kids by myself, and to have somebody like Norm as part of the team, I don’t think any where else in the state has that opportunity.”
And the Hawks’ varsity lineup is certainly geared toward being in the state title hunt this season. There are 10 seniors on varsity, to go along with four juniors and two freshmen.
Heading the list is senior captain Brandon Macedo, who played No. 1 for most of the season last year and is doing the same in the early part of this year. He finished tied for 10th in last year’s state tournament with a two-day score of 153, and he shot a 76 in the first round of this year’s Challenge Cup.
“He’s going to contend,” Angeli said. “I see him being in the mix for an individual state title.”
Playing No. 2 is junior Duncan Marshall, who was not on the team last year as a sophomore but has made huge strides in the past year.
“Duncan, after getting cut last year, did a lot of work in the off-season,” Angeli said. “He’s come back and he’s a guy that we’re going to count on to put up some good numbers and score well for us.”
Juniors Justin Matrone and Garrett Quillen are playing No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, after being full-timers in the lineup last year. Matrone was Hendricken’s top finisher at state’s last year, grabbing eighth overall. Quillen finished tied for 35th at states, including a first round 76 last year.
Playing No. 5 on Wednesday was senior Billy Palmer, another mainstay from last year’s team. He tied for 29th at the state tournament with a two-day score of 160.
Other seniors includ Chandler Alberigo, Eric Olsen, Dave Gooding and Dave Such, and they’re all vying for playing time.
“There’s going to be a lot of guys vying for those 4-5-6 spots,” Angeli said. “There’s going to be guys in the lineup, guys out.”
Currently playing at No. 6 is Claudio Soukamneuth, a freshman who has already turned some heads.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” Angeli said. “He’s right in there. He’s had a pretty good spring so far, and he’s a kid that’s played a good bit of golf.”
Also on the roster are juniors Ryan Almberg and Nathan Mitchell, seniors Scott Blackmar, Joseph Catalfamo and Salvatore Maggiacomo and freshman Zach White.
The Hawks will not only be looking to vie for a state crown, but also a division title, as their main competition will likely be Cranston West, the team they shared the title with last season.
But really, at the end of the season, Hendricken wants to knock off Barrington, or whoever is standing in the way of regaining a state championship that has eluded the program for the last 11 years.
“I think that we have a team that certainly can contend for the division and certainly can contend for a state title,” Angeli said. “It comes down to those two days and who plays the best.”
Pats ready for quick strides
Pilgrim carded a 216 in Monday’s season opener at Cranston Country Club. With a blend of veterans and newcomers, head coach Owen Paquet expects that number to drop quickly.
Improvement will happen fast.
“It’s the type of year where I think improvement is going to happen drastically,” Paquet said. “Kids that are shooting in the 50’s can drop five or six strokes just with the warmer weather. From where they’re starting, I think you’re going to see them get a lot better.”
The 216 was good enough for a win over Warwick Vets, while Cranston West – one of the top contenders for the division title – beat the Pats with a 161. While the Pats know they won’t contend with the best in the division, they’re hopefully that they can continue to hold their own against comparable teams.
With a solid squad it’s a reasonable goal. The Pats lost standout Susie Cavanagh – a state meet qualifier and the girls’ state tournament runner-up – to graduation, but they still have some solid golfers in the fold.
Senior Casey McCormick is the most experienced at the high-school level. She played on the ladder last year and finished 12th at the girls’ state tournament, good enough to qualify her for New Englands.
“Casey McCormick finished 12th in the girls state championship last year and that was quite an accomplishment,” Paquet said. “Her goal is top five and to go to regionals. She’s an accomplished golfer and she’s hitting the ball really well right now. Hopefully she can cut down a couple of putts and be a good scorer for us.”
Senior Rich Crothers is new to the team but is an experienced golfer. He climbed to the No. 1 spot for Monday’s opener and played like he belonged there, carding a team-best 48.
“He’s a first-year player as a senior but he strikes the ball well,” Paquet said. “He has a ton of potential and hopefully we can see some of that.”
Freshman Liam Strain is currently in the third spot, senior Taylor Stringfellow is playing No. 4, sophomore Jaycene Chattele returns at No. 5 and junior Taylor Ryan is playing No. 6.
For those four, there’s some experience and some inexperience – but similar goals. They want to be contributors.
“Definitely we’re looking to hit fairways, cut down on three putts and being on the green in regulation,” Paquet said. “It’s all cutting down the simple mistakes and working on our games from there.”
All in all, the Pats will just look for improvement and see where that takes them.
“I think we should be shooting around 200 for a team,” Paquet said. “Getting that or breaking 200 would be a nice goal for us.”
Vets in rebuilding mode
The Vets golf team had six seniors last season, and under their watch, the ’Canes went from one win in 2009 to five last year. It was the team’s best season since 2004, and Vets just missed qualifying for the three-team playoff that determines the division’s final state tournament bid.
With those seniors gone to graduation, Vets is back at the beginning of that cycle.
“We graduated six seniors from last year, when we were in the mix to get one of those five playoff spots” said head coach Ed Walsh. “We’re definitely in the rebuilding stages.”
It’s a familiar spot for the program – numbers are never big and there tends to be little golf experience. Vets has to build slowly with a strong core, as it did the past few years.
The hope is that Vets can start the process again this season.
“I’m hoping for improvement,” Walsh said.
Vets has one returning player leading the way in junior Kyle Veyera. He was a standout last year, and by the end of the season, he was consistently turning in the team’s top scores despite the presence of all the seniors.
“He’ll be the number one,” Walsh said. “By the end of last year, he actually was our number one. He’s a solid player.”
Beyond Veyera, the lineup is completely new to varsity golf – and in some cases, completely new to golf.
Junior Jared Pellicio is in the No. 2 spot, junior David MacDonald is playing No. 3 and sophomore Zach Levenson is at No. 4.
Those three joined Veyera in the lineup for Monday’s season opener.
“This is the first time they played in a real match,” Walsh said.
Walsh opted not to fill out the rest of the ladder for Monday’s match because the six other golfers on the roster are just learning the game. With those six, though, there’s an interesting dynamic at play – they’re all freshman girls who came out for the team together.
“They’re all completely just starting golf,” Walsh said. “They just got clubs. But they want to do it. They’re having a good time and they’re enjoying being out here.”
The freshmen are Maddison Delayo, Kylie Maziuk, Aubrey Moreira, Lillian O’Hara, Stephanie Racca and Catherine Talley.
“They’re are all honors students, really good kids,” Walsh said. “They’ll learn if they stick with it. This season goes by so fast. They’ll get a little bit better from start to finish, so they need to take some lessons, go to Buttonhole, do some stuff on their own.”
Vets predictably had a tough day in its opener, finishing with a 252, behind both Pilgrim and Cranston West. The competition won’t get a lot easier, so the ’Canes are just focused on getting better and enjoying their time on the course.
“I’m hoping for improvement every time they go out from the four that are playing,” Walsh said. “And then we’ll try to bring the six girls along.”
Titans field young squad
The Toll Gate golf team has finished in the top five of the division standings each of the past eight years, and this year’s team has several of the program’s trademark qualities – the Titans have good numbers and their golfers are enthusiastic.
The one thing missing is experience.
Only one player returns with significant varsity experience, and the roster of 12 features eight freshmen, many of whom are new to the sport.
“Typically, if we haven’t had a team that contended, we had a team that was in the playoff mix,” said head coach Bill Russo. “This year, our goals are more introducing the kids to the game and keeping them interested. Hopefully they like it and they take it up. I’m glad that the interest is there. We’ve just got to get them some experience.”
The Titans went 5-9 last year and graduated five players, including state tournament qualifiers Phil Krause and Danny Holmes. Krause was a top-10 finisher.
The only player back with significant experience is senior Rachel Willett, who has been on the ladder for several years. She’ll take the No. 1 spot this season.
“She’s really our only returning player who’s been out there a lot,” Russo said. “She’s our clear No. 1 at this point.”
Sophomore Andrew Rocchio was on the team last year and saw some action. He’ll likely be a regular this season.
Two freshmen – Kevin Browning and Nicole Krause – have worked their way up to the top four. Browning has golf experience and has shown a lot of promise early on. Krause – Phil’s younger sister – started playing golf last summer and took private lessons in the winter.
The top four have separated themselves and will probably be in the lineup every week. The next two spots are up for grabs, and Russo is planning to rotate different golfers in for every match. First-year senior Peter Garber and freshman Kelsey Holmes played there in Wednesday’s season opener. Also in the mix are junior Jaime Given and freshmen Brooke Aurgemme, Jacob Dickinson, Abigayle Given, Joshua Mouritsen and Alexander Nahrjang.
“For now, we’ll look at the last match and the two high scores are out,” Russo said. “Two of the kids who are waiting in the wings will take their spots. We’ll just rotate to get everybody in a match and get them as much experience as possible.”
The goal for everybody will be steady improvement.
“Basically, charting their progress from day one and just literally, day-by-day, teaching as we go,” Russo said. “Picking up the fundamentals and the fine points of the game. We’ll hope in the course of six to eight weeks, their scores will drop.”
And along the way, the Titans are hoping the enthusiasm remains.
“They’re definitely into it for a young, inexperienced team,” Russo said. “They played all through vacation week, they go to the driving range on their own. It’s good to see. We’ll just go out there and have some fun with it this year.”