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2020 HS golf preview: Championships waiting for no one

  • Hanover High golf coach Zach Temple plucks grass from Claremont Country Club's fifth tee for tossing into the air to gauge wind speed and direction during an NHIAA mach on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Claremont, N.H. Temple is an interim replacement for longtime Marauder coach John Donnelly, who is taking the season off. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Greg Fennell

  • Stevens High golfer Finn Allen reacts to a missed birdie attempt on Claremont Country Club's second hole during an NHIAA match on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Claremont, N.H. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon High golfer Ben Begin cleans his ball prior to his second shot on Claremont Country Club's second hole during an NHIAA match on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Claremont, N.H. Begin hit his second shot to within 6 inches of the pin and sank the ensuing putt for a birdie. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lebanon High golf coach Matt Dancosse, center, shares a fist bump with Stevens High sixth-grader Owen Wilkinson during an NHIAA golf match on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, at Claremont Country Club in Claremont, N.H. Dancosse took over the Raiders after longtime coach Chris Pollard stepped down over the winter. (Valley News - Greg Fennell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Greg Fennell

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 10/1/2020 8:04:07 AM
Modified: 10/1/2020 12:58:41 PM

Golf bills itself as the ideal game for social distancing. Be that as it may, the coronavirus pandemic is making it difficult for Vermont to get its high school golf season going.

Green Mountain golf teams were in the same boat as other sports, waiting for state approval to begin interscholastic competition. The Vermont state government’s decision to delay the go-ahead for fall golf schedules has left most, if not all teams, with little or no match competition heading into state championship qualfying this week.

That said, Vermont high school golf is more of an individual competition in the regular season, with team scores irrelevant until sectional championships arrive. Teams have been accumulating scores in practice for use in seeding should they be needed. That gives folks like defending Division II champion Hartford a low-key means of preparing after losing the bulk of last year’s team to graduation.

The New Hampshire season got cranking on Sept. 8. Stevens looks like a potential challenger for NHIAA Division III honors, returning an entire roster of golfers who are all showing signs of improvement. Hanover has a new coach for the first time in two decades, albeit on an interim basis, and Lebanon is adjusting to a new person at the helm as well.

Mid-Vermont Christian and Newport will support individuals in competition.

HANOVER

Coach: Zach Temple (1).

Last year: 22-9, finished fourth at NHIAA Division I team states at Stonebridge Country Club. Senior Jack Meehan was second among individuals, two strokes behind Nashua North’s Bryce Zimmerman.

League: NHIAA Division I.

Home courses: The Quechee Club, Quechee; Lake Morey Country Club, Fairlee.

Returnees: Senior — Natalie Morhun. Juniors — Ben Plottner, John Hill, Spencer Lawe, Casey Graham. Sophomore — Dylan Jopp.

Newcomers: Juniors — Max Galbraith, Trevor Pierce, Brendan Wolter. Sophomore — Zhiwen Liu. Freshmen — Andrew Cahoon, Adam Goodney, Hyunseo Yi, Jinseo Yi.

Analysis: As longtime coach John Donnelly takes a break after 17 years in charge, the Marauders get the benefit of a soon-to-be PGA of America professional who used to be a high school standout at Hartford High. It’s had at least one palpable benefit: Hanover is getting to use the Quechee Club, where Temple works, as a practice site, with Lake Morey stepping up as a host for home matches.

Morhun is looking to follow in the steps of her older sister, Meredith, who won the 18-hole NHIAA girls title last year. She along with Hill, Plottner, Lawe, Graham and Jopp are already giving Hanover a good start to the campaign, grouping their scores together tightly in the low 40s for nine holes. Liu, Cahoon and Goodney have the best potential among newcomers to crack the starting lineup.

“The strength is just the will to get better,” Temple said. “They ran captains’ practices all summer. I had nothing to do with that; they did it all on their own. We could be a sleeper team. We could go through our season, stick within the 75-mile radius (of school) and surprise some people we haven’t seen all year.”

HARTFORD

Coach: Mike Hathorn (6).

Last year: 36-8, won first VPA Division II team state championship in 25 years.

League: VPA Division II.

Home course: The Quechee Club, Quechee.

Returnees: Sophomore — Joseph Barwood.

Newcomers: Junior — Macin Gaudette. Freshman — Jaiden Poirier.

Analysis: In the span of one offseason, the Hurricanes went from a senior-laden team that won its first state championship since 1994 to a squad needing one more golfer just to post a team score at states. Until he can secure that person, coach Mike Hathorn can look forward to the continue improvement of sophomore Joseph Barwood, who shot a 13-over-par 85 at last year’s D-II finals at Quechee to help Hartford break its long title drought. This year’s state tournament will be at the Country Club of Barre on Oct. 7.

“With the strength of Joseph Barwood’s game, and Jaiden and Macin’s ability,” Hathorn said, “if we find one more scorer, we will have a chance to contend again.”

LEBANON

Coach: Matt Dancosse (1).

Last year: 16-23, placed 10th at NHIAA D-III team states at Mount Washington Resort. Junior Joe Roberts missed qualifying for individual states by one stroke.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Home course: Eastman Golf Links, Grantham.

Returnees: Seniors — Ben Begin, Stephen Krueger, Joe Roberts, Zach Howland, Lily Barber. Juniors — Nathan Stark, Zach Bitler. Sophomores — Roy Shapard, Sean Miller, Alex Blish.

Newcomers: None.

Analysis: The entire Raider roster from last season arrives with a new coach, Matt Dancosse, stepping up from the junior varsity with the end of Chris Pollard’s 12-year run. Dancosse has worked with everyone on the roster at some point and has expectations of continued improvement upon last year’s 10th-place finish at states.

“They’re all returning players, so I expect us to be a little better and take the next step,” Dancosse said. “I think that we also have a lot of young contenders this year. Of our top five scorers (at states last season), only one was a senior. We’re building on what we did last year. Next year will be a really good year for us.”

RIVENDELL

Coach: Jeff Decker (2).

Last year: Didn’t qualify for state tournament.

League: Vermont Division II.

Home course: Lake Morey Country Club, Fairlee.

Returnees: Junior — Ezra Avery. Sophomore — Tovahn Eitoles. Freshman — Luke Avery.

Newcomers: Freshmen — Carter Bacon, Parker Piper.

Analysis: The Raptors won back-to-back state championships in now-defunct Division III in 2013 and ’14 under the guidance of Lake Morey director of golf Justin Bonnett but lost the program when Vermont moved golf to the fall calendar three years ago. Coach Jeff Decker now oversees a young group in its second season back on the course. The Raptors have a definite Lake Morey flavor with brothers Ezra and Luke Avery, of the family that has owned and operated the Fairlee resort for many years. Decker said Luke Avery is set for the upcoming D-II state qualifier at Woodstock Country Club.

“I would love to see my golfers keep improving, and they are on a week-to-week basis,” said Decker, who teaches science at Rivendell. “They’re showing improvement all season long. If I can get one or two kids into the next round (of the state tournament), that would be great.”

STEVENS

Coaches: Ryan Seaver (6) and Ian MacDonald (4).

Last year: 29-12, sixth at D-III states at Mount Washington. Juniors Dylan Adamovich was 10th and Finn Allen 13th at individual states.

League: NHIAA Division III.

Home course: Claremont Country Club.

Returnees: Seniors — Finn Allen, Dylan Adamovich, Reeve Wilkinson. Juniors — Matt Eagan, C.J. Naugler. Sophomore — Cedric Allen.

Newcomers: None.

Analysis: Years of building the Stevens program have put Ryan Seaver and the Cardinals in position to challenge for a state championship this fall. Allen, Adamovich and Wilkinson have all shot 40 or better in nine-hole matches this season. Similar scores stretched over 18 holes backed by good efforts from any one of the Cards’ other three players could lead to a first-time success at states for Stevens, which was second by a stroke to Pembroke at the NHIAA Class I tourney in 2001.

“These guys are battle-tested, have great course awareness and are very much aware where they stand in their matches,” said Seaver, who co-coaches with former Cardinal golfer Ian MacDonald. “ We really have the prefect makeup for a team.”

WINDSOR

Coach: Patrick Allen (8).

Last year: Didn’t qualify for state tournament.

League: VPA Division II.

Home course: John P. Larkin Country Club, Windsor.

Returnees: Senior — Cooper Bevis. Junior — Bryce Moody. Sophomores — David Hall, Liam Attwood.

Newcomers: Sophomore — Noah Abernathy. Freshmen — Lee Bevis, Owen Roberge.

Analysis: Between the roster he has now and eighth-graders coming up, eighth-year coach Patrick Allen is excited about the Yellowjackets’ future. The big goal for the coming campaign, whenever it starts: make states. With the lack of matches, Allen is doing what he can to create a tournament atmosphere in the Jacks’ practices.

“I think we’ve made some gains since last year,” he said. “There’s a good improvement in the team and individual scores. Everyone’s coming back; we had a strong core last year. … I think we’re working hard but obviously, with the conditions, it’s going to be tough. We have only one senior. Even though it’s a short season, we’ll have a good squad for next year.”

WOODSTOCK

Coach: Larry Wentzel (5).

Last year: Didn’t qualify for team states. Ethan Dean played in state meet as individual. Sister Emily Dean qualified for New Englands for second year in a row.

League: VPA Division II.

Home course: Woodstock Country Club, Woodstock.

Returnees: Seniors — Emily Dean, Aaron Wilson. Juniors — Will Duane, Chris Bradley. Sophomores — Ethan Dean, Jacob Carey.

Newcomers: Seniors — Dan Drebber, Louis Mills. Sophomore — Chase Conway.

Analysis: The delayed start to the Vermont season comes with one benefit for the Wasps: the knowledge they host the VPA Division II sectional tournament, which fifth-year coach Larry Wentzel believes gives them a familiarity edge in their bid to qualify for the state tournament. On top of that, Emily Dean continues to climb the ladder of Vermont high school girls golf, and her younger brother Ethan is following her lead with the boys.

“My goal, and our hope as a team goal, is that they take enough qualifying teams to go to states,” Wentzel said. “I want us to qualify. Woodstock is not an easy golf course, and we have the home-course advantage.”




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