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Finding His Game: Mid Vermont Senior Grateful He Discovered Golf

  • Mid Vermont Christian's Henry Sherman watches his chip toward the seventh green come up short during his Julian Cup high school golf match with Bedford's Ryan Tombs yesterday at Woodstock Country Club. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

    Mid Vermont Christian's Henry Sherman watches his chip toward the seventh green come up short during his Julian Cup high school golf match with Bedford's Ryan Tombs yesterday at Woodstock Country Club. Valley News -- Greg Fennell Purchase photo reprints »

  • With the Julian Cup trophy in the background, Hanover's Sam Mellert gets ready for his opening drive on the first tee of Woodstock Country Club during yesterday's Julian Cup high school golf matches. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

    With the Julian Cup trophy in the background, Hanover's Sam Mellert gets ready for his opening drive on the first tee of Woodstock Country Club during yesterday's Julian Cup high school golf matches. Valley News -- Greg Fennell Purchase photo reprints »

  • Mid Vermont Christian's Henry Sherman watches his chip toward the seventh green come up short during his Julian Cup high school golf match with Bedford's Ryan Tombs yesterday at Woodstock Country Club. Valley News -- Greg Fennell
  • With the Julian Cup trophy in the background, Hanover's Sam Mellert gets ready for his opening drive on the first tee of Woodstock Country Club during yesterday's Julian Cup high school golf matches. Valley News -- Greg Fennell

Woodstock — People fall for golf for various reasons. The outdoors. The camaraderie. The frustration. The competition.

It just confounds the hoo-hah out of Henry Sherman. And therein lies the attraction.

Where hockey, baseball and soccer dimmed as interests, golf retains a hold on the recent Mid Vermont Christian School graduate. It’s a fascination he’ll continue into college and one upon which he capitalized yesterday during Vermont’s 22-8 rout of New Hampshire in the 15th Jeff Julian Cup high school golf matches at Woodstock Country Club.

Staked to nine points from three forfeit victories before the first ball was struck, Vermont won for the fifth time in six years and now trails the all-time series by just an 8-7 margin.

“I’ve had a few friends who have done the Julian Cup in the past, and they’ve loved it,” Sherman said after splitting three points with Bedford’s Ryan Tombs in the day’s only completely halved match. “That’s something I’m working towards. It’s been in the back of my mind. When I got the invite at states, it meant a lot.”

Sherman led the tiny Quechee school to back-to-back runner-up finishes at the VPA Division III golf finals as a junior and senior, and he’s gaining some fans.

Scott Peters, tournament organizer and Golf & Ski Warehouse president, sees Sherman in his West Lebanon store frequently: “He’s passionate about clubs, he’s passionate about the game, he’s passionate about getting better.”

Vermont co-coach Mike Hathorn, of Hartford High, followed Sherman’s foursome around Woodstock yesterday: “I think his attitude is his No. 1 strength.”

He’s got game, too. In addition to throwing down Mid Vermont’s lowest score at states (a 7-over-par 77), he qualified for the New England championships for the second time.

Sherman’s photographer father, John, threw the older of his two sons into a variety of sports as a youth — hockey, soccer, baseball — and Henry grew tired of each over time. He either lost interest or found them too expensive or inconvenient to continue.

But golf? “I saw Tiger Woods on TV, and I thought, ‘Hey, that looks pretty easy; let’s go try that,’ ” Sherman recalled. “And it wasn’t.

“Golf kind of puzzled me. Golf was, like, I don’t really get this game. It was working against golf from there, trying to improve my game and enjoying that. … It confused me the most. It was the one that was hardest for me.”

The hard also affects Peters, in a different manner.

Yesterday’s outcome was decided before anyone took to the course, something that continues to frustrate — if not confuse — Peters. New Hampshire arrived short three of its 10 players: Keene’s Chelso Barrett, Londonderry’s Taylor Simpson and Nashua North’s Morgan Delapena. The absentees gifted Vermont nine points out of the gate — and left Rutland’s Dylan Rotella and Burr & Burton’s Colin Becker without opponents. (Delapena called Peters early enough yesterday so that he could recruit his wife, Amy, to give Lebanon’s Colette Schmidt, Woodstock’s Lauren Mayer and Harwood’s Miranda Milne a fourth competitor. (Milne, who automatically earned the points for Vermont, faced Amy Peters.)

It’s been a recurring theme lately — Schmidt was asked to participate at the Country Club of New Hampshire last summer when a Granite State girl went AWOL — and it’s one Peters is uncertain how to resolve.

“I think the kids that played last year, when they left, they had a great feeling about the day,” Peters said. “The hard part is to get that message to the next year’s seniors, and we’ve not been able to do that very well.”

Peters faces two other challenges. There’s the usual busy-teenager-meets-last-summer-before-college thing. But it’s also been a while since the passing of Julian, the Norwich resident and Vermont’s first PGA Tour player who died from Lou Gehrig’s disease in 2004, so fewer and fewer young golfers know of him and why his lifelong friend considers it so important to stage a tournament in his memory.

“Is it a challenge to get 20 high school seniors together? It is,” admitted Peters, who reduced roster sizes from 12 to 10 last year in hopes of eliminating no-shows. “They’re being tugged in all kinds of different directions. There’s an understanding of that. So it’s hard to know what the right answer is for next year.”

What competition there was, Vermont dominated.

Mount Abraham’s Jona Scott, whose 1-under-par 69 took top honors at the VPA state championship at Woodstock three weeks ago, pulled out 2½ points out of his match with Bedford’s Dylan Cowette, another replacement for a previous choice. Colchester’s Matt Nelson and Harwood’s Erik Bertalan earned 3-0 sweeps — Bertalan getting the better of Hanover’s Sam Mellert — while Hartford’s Zach Temple topped Goffstown’s Jake Mount, 2-1.

“This is a really nice way to start off the summer and figure out where I need to go from here,” said the Bates-bound Mellert, who narrowly missed to cut for the eight-man roster for Hanover’s New Hampshire Division II championship run last October. “Everyone here has pretty much got their game figured out or are shooting very well. It’s definitely a step up.”

On the girls side, Schmidt got plenty from Mayer in a 2-1 decision. The Lebanon High grad — who will play at the University of Hartford this fall — won the front nine and the full 18 just two weeks after claiming her first New England high school crown.

“This was one of the first times I’ve played in a match-play tournament, and Colette was awesome,” said Mayer, who will play golf at Minnesota’s Macalester College this fall. “I just wanted to go out and play my best, work on keeping my head down and striking the ball. And I definitely did that today.”

Sherman and Tombs played the day’s closest match, divvying up their three points right down the middle.

Sherman had to come through at the end to do that much. Down two with 17 and 18 to play, Sherman managed to beat Tombs with pars to have the back nine and the overall 18-hole match.

“I want to play players that are good, obviously, and he was worthy competition,” Sherman said of Tombs, a contributor to two New Hampshire D-II state championships at Bedford in 2009 and ’10. “He was a lot of fun to play with. We went up and down all day. When he hit a good shot, I hit a good shot. It means a lot to get into some good competition and play well.”

School commitments kept Sherman from qualifying for the Vermont and New England amateur championships. He’ll get entreaties from Hathorn to join the high-level competition at Hanover Country Club — Sherman joined the club last year — and also ready for golf and pharmacology studies at Ohio’s Cedarville University this autumn.

“I love chemistry,” Sherman said. “I can’t get enough of those carbon bonds and all that good stuff. The thing that interests me about chemistry is it’s confusing as well.”

Only one other thing did that to Sherman. He seems to be tackling it pretty well.

Chip Shots: Rotella, Becker and Milne were credited with 3-0 forfeit wins. … Like Schmidt, Hartford’s Temple was making his second Julian Cup appearance, having served as an emergency fill-in last June at CCNH. He’ll suit up for the Castleton State men’s golf team this year. … As part of a senior project, Tombs hosted a tournament at his home course, Manchester Country Club, last month to support a local Special Olympics club.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.