The Swing’s the Thing: Vermont H.S. Golfers Finally Getting on the Course

  • Two Rivendell Academy players pass the time by dribbling golf balls during a high school golf match at Windsor's J.P. Larkin Country Club on April 28. The Raptors are defending Vermont Division III state champions. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Two Rivendell Academy players pass the time by dribbling golf balls during a high school golf match at Windsor's J.P. Larkin Country Club on April 28. The Raptors are defending Vermont Division III state champions.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Windsor High golfers head down the fairway during last week's match. The Yellowjackets boast a new coach and a young roster. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Windsor High golfers head down the fairway during last week's match. The Yellowjackets boast a new coach and a young roster.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Woodstock's Charlie Kelly drives a shot toward the seventh green at Windsor's J.P. Larkin Country Club during a high school golf match on April 28. Kelly joins a veteran group of Wasps who reached last year's Vermont Division II state tournament. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Woodstock's Charlie Kelly drives a shot toward the seventh green at Windsor's J.P. Larkin Country Club during a high school golf match on April 28. Kelly joins a veteran group of Wasps who reached last year's Vermont Division II state tournament.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap

  • Mak Lyford

    Mak Lyford

  • Austin Sayers

    Austin Sayers

  • Chase Andrews

    Chase Andrews

  • Luke Bell

    Luke Bell

  • Brian Meagher

    Brian Meagher

  • Two Rivendell Academy players pass the time by dribbling golf balls during a high school golf match at Windsor's J.P. Larkin Country Club on April 28. The Raptors are defending Vermont Division III state champions. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Windsor High golfers head down the fairway during last week's match. The Yellowjackets boast a new coach and a young roster. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Woodstock's Charlie Kelly drives a shot toward the seventh green at Windsor's J.P. Larkin Country Club during a high school golf match on April 28. Kelly joins a veteran group of Wasps who reached last year's Vermont Division II state tournament. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • Mak Lyford
  • Austin Sayers
  • Chase Andrews
  • Luke Bell
  • Brian Meagher

The Vermont Principals Association usually plans for its golf teams to get into action last among the spring sports, given the need to wait for the state’s courses to become playable first. It nearly didn’t work out that way.

Every one of the Upper Valley’s other varsity teams have managed to get at least one game done. Now it’s time for the golfers, who were fortunate enough to get early starts last spring but haven’t been as lucky this time around, with some courses just opening for the season in the past week.

Rivendell will have a good shot to repeat its first Vermont Division III state championship, returning almost everyone from last year’s team. The big question is whether one of the Raptors’ top players will be slowed by splitting time between the golf course and baseball diamond.

Mid Vermont Christian may also continue its D-III press. Two experienced players return, but the Eagles — like most of the region’s teams — have a lot of golfers who are new to the game and who will need to improve quickly if their teams are to enjoy on-course success. The area also welcomes Oxbow back to the team fold this spring after several years away.

Continuing a plan to use a rotation of courses for the state finals that began last June at Woodstock Country Club, the VPA will stage this year’s boys state championship at the Country Club of Vermont in Waterbury Center on June 4. The girls state tourney is following suit, leaving its traditional Proctor-Pittsford Country Club home for a June 3 date at Williston Country Club.

A capsule look at this season’s teams:

Hartford

Coach: Roy Hathorn (10).

League: Vermont Division I, south district.

Last Year: Team missed state tournament; Zach Temple and Mak Lyford qualified as individuals.

Home Course: Quechee Club.

Returning Letterwinners: Seniors — Mak Lyford, Michael Follensbee, Riley Horan. Juniors — Zach Davis, Mark Rogenski.

Newcomers: Junior — Ryan Ruffing. Sophomore — Gunnar West. Freshmen — Conor Joyce, Jack Urso, Lucas Bjorkman, J.D. Hawks.

Key Losses: Temple graduated and joined the men’s golf team at Castleton State College, winning the North Atlantic Conference rookie of the year award last fall.

Strengths: “Most of our players are new to the game,” coach Roy Hathorn noted. “However, the group is excited to get started and are willing to work on their games.”

Weaknesses: Inexperience.

Players to Watch: Hathorn will lean upon Lyford and Follensbee as leaders.

Toughest Opponents: Rutland, Burr & Burton.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “My hope is that the kids learn from the many lessons golf has to provide,” Hathorn said, “and that they become players who respect and enjoy the game.”

Mid Vermont Christian

Co-Coaches: Gary Ott and Kent Dahlberg (8).

League: Boys — Vermont Division III, south district; girls — Division II.

Last Year: Eagles made states for fourth straight year and finished a program-best second to champion Rivendell. Henry Sherman won the D-III medal, qualified for the New England championship and was invited to the Julian Cup matches, an MVCS first.

Home Course: Quechee Club.

Returning Letterwinners: Seniors — Austin Sayers, Colin Fileault. Junior — Wyat Sherman. Sophomores — Isaac McIntire, Catherine Haas

Newcomers: Juniors — Ben Chen, Connor Dorr. Eighth Grade: Addy Sayers.

Key Losses: Henry Sherman and Lukas Klassen graduated. Juniors James King and Liam Cusack are sitting out this spring because of other commitments.

Strengths: Bonding. “Out veteran players are nurturing the new players,” co-coach Gary Ott sad.

Weaknesses: With only Austin Sayers and Wyat Sherman as returning veterans, the Eagles’ newcomers will need to develop quickly.

Players to Watch: Dorr, new to the Upper Valley this year from Cape Cod, “shows considerable promise,” Ott said. Dorr was making a presence for himself on the MVCS boys basketball team when he went down with a season-ending injury, but Ott said he has recovered completely.

Etc.: Ott and co-coach Kent Dahlberg continue to work on introducing more girls into the Mid Vermont program and get them comfortable competing in matches.

Toughest Opponents: Rivendell, Springfield, Woodstock.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “Our goal for MVCS golf team members and their fellow competitors is to make each season an enjoyable growth experience,” Ott noted. “They are learning a complex, yet beautiful, lifelong sport.”

Oxbow

Coach: Anthony Stevens (1).

League: Vermont Division II, north district.

Last Year: No team. Chase Andrews practiced with Rivendell and competed as individual at states.

Home Course: Bradford Golf Club.

Returning Letterwinners: Junior — Chase Andrews.

Newcomers: Juniors — Matthew Thomson, Jordon Fornwalt, Anthony Giesing. Sophomore — John Clements.

Key Losses: None.

Strengths: Athleticism, work ethic. “They all have a passion for the sport of golf and, as well, are all very competitive,” said coach Anthony Stevens, who is guiding the school’s first team effort in several years. “They are working together as a team very well and are supporting each other on and off the course.”

Weaknesses: With just five golfers, the Olympians have just one above the minimum to score team points.

Players to Watch: Andrews, the program’s veteran player.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “This group is upbeat, competitive and all underclassmen,” Stevens said. “With their success throughout this season, it will spark interest in the younger athletes within the school and build this program.”

Rivendell

Coach: Justin Bonnett (8).

League: Vermont Division III, south district.

Last Year: Won state championship for first time in program history, the first state title by any Rivendell boys varsity team in any sport.

Home Course: Lake Morey Country Club, Fairlee.

Returning Letterwinners: Seniors — Luke Bell, Josh Marshall. Junior — Sam Ivy. Sophomores — Jacob Perkins, Sam Kamel, Ryan Landgraf.

Newcomers: None.

Key Losses: None.

Strengths: Experience. “All the kids on this year’s team are rock-solid golfers with a strong understanding of their swings,” said coach Justin Bonnett, a Lake Morey assistant pro. “They are all proficient in assessing their poor swings (and) shots and correcting what they did on the spot.”

Weaknesses: Lack of depth, occasional course management.

Players to Watch: Bell, Marshall, Kamel, Landgraf.

Toughest Opponents: Mid-Vermont Christian, Peoples, Stowe.

Etc.: Bell is also playing on the Rivendell baseball team this season, a first. “It’s a new one for me,” Bonnett said. “Time will tell whether it affects his golf game or not.”

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “My hope (and) goal are to hopefully have the opportunity to make another run at states,” Bonnett said. “I have a great group of kids that work hard and are fun to be around. Beside the late start to the season, I am very excited to get under way and play some matches.”

Windsor

Coach: Pat Allen (1).

League: Vermont Division III, south district.

Last Year: Did not qualify for states.

Home Course: J.P. Larkin Country Club, Windsor.

Returning Letterwinners: Senior — Nick Witty. Juniors — Brian Meagher, Zhenya Malikowski. Sophomores — River Merriam, Justin Gee.

Newcomers: Freshmen — Ben Thornton, Ryan Saucier.

Key Losses: Allen, a physical education teacher at Windsor and a junior varsity basketball coach at Fall Mountain Regional High School, takes over as coach from Rich Vacca, who ran the program for five years.

Strengths: Coachability. “This is a nice group of guys who are open to any feedback and willing to try out changes to their swings,” Allen said.

Weaknesses: Match experience. Allen: “Our team has only a couple of guys familiar with match experience, so it will be good to get everyone exposure to it.”

Players to Watch: Meagher, Merriam.

Toughest Opponents: Rivendell, Springfield.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We have a group of guys that are motivated to play and learn,” Allen said. “My goal is to help each individual improve their game and see that steady development during practices and matches.”

Woodstock

Coach: Jim Gunnare (8).

League: Vermont Division II, south district.

Last Year: Qualified for states as a team, finishing fifth on home course.

Home Course: Woodstock Country Club.

Returning Letterwinners: Seniors — Aiden Mumford, Carter Pratt, Andrew Becker. Juniors — Charlie Kelly, Jake Kelly. Sophomores — Andrew Borden, Joe Bianchi.

Newcomers: Junior — Alex Geschart. Sophomore — Dawson Gibson. Freshmen — Kyle Hanson, Michael Hirshbuhl, Jarrett Hosington, Alex Hirak.

Key Losses: The Wasps lost one senior in Lauren Mayer, who participated in last summer’s Julian Cup.

Strengths: A lot of experience, with seven players in grade 10 or higher who are good players.

Weaknesses: Short game, course management.

Players to Watch: Bianchi, Pratt, Becker.

Toughest Opponents: Lyndon, Mount Abraham, Mill River.

Coach’s Final Thoughts: “We’re looking to improve on last year’s results in the state championship,” coach Jim Gunnare noted. “It should be interesting, as it is being hosted by (Country Club of Vermont). A lot of experience on this team, if they can control their short game and course management.”

CORRECTION

Sam Kamel is a sophomore member of the Rivendell Academy golf team. His first name was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.