Happy Return for Raiders
In Return to Carter CC, Lebanon Upends State Champ
Lebanon High's Corey Huckins shows Souhegan's Alek Medic where he can drop his ball after landing a shot on the cart path on the sixth fairway at Carter Country Club in Lebanon on Thursday. Valley News - James M. Patterson
Lebanon coach Chris Pollard, middle, confers with Lebanon's T.J. Barber , left, asHanover's Patrick Dyroff prepares to tee off on the fifth hole.
Valley News - James M. Patterson
Hanover High coach John Donnelly, left, talks with Nathan Roth, right, during their golf match with Lebanon, Trinity and Souhegan at Carter Golf Club in Lebanon on Thursday. Valley News - James M. Patterson
Lebanon — There’s nothing in the rules sheet for Carter Country Club that states access to the green on the football field-short ninth hole must be gained by banking a wedge off the car repair shop across the street.
That’s over the top. But the nine-hole course hard by Interstate 89 has its quirks, and the Lebanon Raiders are happy to own them again.
Led by two surprising scores from the middle of its lineup, the Lebanon High golf team opened its season — and its return to Carter — with an eight-stroke win over Hanover on Thursday afternoon. An even-par 36 from junior No. 5 David Albright and a career-best 37 from senior No. 4 Nabeel Khan highlighted a team 192 that edged out the two-time defending champion Marauders (200) as well as Souhegan (209) and Trinity (228).
The match was the Raiders’ first at Carter in five years. Coach Chris Pollard had been bivouacking his team at Grantham’s Eastman Golf Links, figuring the tougher course would benefit the Raiders come state tournament time. But times change, and the quirks of home drew Lebanon back.
“It looks easy, but there’s a lot of hidden difficulty in this golf course,” Pollard said. “These kids all grew up on it. They know all the spots. That’s really a benefit.
“It’s nice to be back in town. It’s all about the community. They wanted us back, and we came back.”
Getting some unexpected leadership helped.
Khan and Albright entered Thursday’s debut holding the same spots in the Lebanon lineup that they possessed during the Raiders’ eighth-place finish at last October’s NHIAA Division II state team tournament. Pollard needs them, and others, to cut their scores a few strokes to increase the team’s possibilities this time around.
For one day at least, mission accomplished. Khan was all grins as he handed Pollard his card with a score better than any he’d managed over nine holes anywhere. At the time, it turned a four-shot deficit into a two-stroke Raider lead on Hanover; Albright’s medal-winning tally followed, and the hosts led the rest of the way.
“I think (it was) a little bit better than I thought it would be,” Pollard said. “I thought it would be close to this number, low 200s, but with Nabeel — that was his lifetime low — (and) David came out of nowhere, too. … It’s better than I thought it would be, and it’s encouraging for the rest of the year.”
Lebanon No. 1 Corey Huckins, Hanover No. 1 Nathan Roth and Souhegan’s Jorick Ehrenstein each carded 38 to share third place behind Albright and Khan.
Huckins and Roth came about their scores in different fashion. Roth’s was a round of consistency, featuring eight pars, but the double-bogey 6 on Carter’s fourth hole represented how the quirks can catch the out-of-towner.
Both the first and fourth feature greens that are a good 50 feet above the level of the fairway, making approach shots extra challenging. After a fine drive, Roth thinned his wedge well behind the green, which required two chips and two putts to find the hole.
Huckins matched Roth stroke for stroke most of the match, erasing a first-hole bogey with short birdies on 6 and 8. That left the senior below par at the final hole, a par-3 with (maybe) 110 yards between the tee and green.
Huckins mis-hit his tee ball, sending it scurrying across Mechanic Street and against an adjoining building. It led to a three-putt triple bogey and perhaps thoughts of what might have been, but not enough to dim the appreciation of returning to Carter.
“I think it was a good idea, because it’s a lot closer to home and it’s a lot more open, to get the play going faster,” Huckins said. “Eastman is a lot of woods. That made it a little tougher. It’s a good course, but I like playing here better.
“I usually miss left. Pretty much anywhere here, if you miss, you’re still good. You’re not going to lose too many strokes.”
Dylan Gaudette (40) and Garrett White (41) completed Lebanon’s scoring.
What the Marauders may have lacked in low numbers, they answered with consistency by putting seven of their eight scores in a five-stroke stretch. Patrick Dyroff (39), Josh Goodrich (40), Andrew Keddy (41) and Chris Lehmann (42) counted toward Hanover’s tally.
“I think there’s room for improvement, I expected a little better, but we do have a young team with limited varsity experience,” Hanover coach John Donnelly said. “Our guys, they keep it in play, which is nice, and they know how to get it around. Just not a lot of varsity golf for a lot of them.”
Count Donnelly among those who’s happy Carter is back on the high school rotation.
“It’s fun to see kids making birdies,” he said. “It’s shorter, more open and just all there right in front of you.”
As is the season for the Raiders, who made themselves at home … again.
“I’ve been thinking this was going to be a really good team; I just didn’t know how good yet,” Pollard said. “With a little more work and a little more mental game work, I think we’re going to be one of the contenders up there.”
Chip Shots: Roth was the sole right-handed golfer that included Huckins, Trinity’s Cam Smith (46) and Souhegan’s Alex Medic (40), southpaws all. … While golfers were allowed to play preferred lies in the fairways, Carter showed no damage from Wednesday night’s heavy thunderstorms. … The course has a new bridge covering a creek between the fifth green and sixth tee, having lost the old one to the rainstorm of two months ago that heavily damaged nearby Slayton Hill Road. … Lebanon will host one other match this season, with Goffstown and Merrimack Valley visiting on Sept. 19. The Raiders visit Coe-Brown on Tuesday at another quirky track, Nippo Lake Golf Club in Barrington. … Hanover returns to action on Wednesday, meeting Merrimack Valley at Loudon Country Club.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.