Gulls Fall A Stroke Short in Conference Championship
The Endicott Golf Team came into Sunday, April 26, the second round of the conference championship, leading by two strokes. The lead would prove to be not enough as Western New England came from behind in the second day of the tournament to beat the Gulls by one stroke in Beverly. With the win, Western New England will play in Greensboro North Carolina in the Division III Men’s Golf Tournament.
Despite the loss, the Gulls fought the whole way, remaining in contention for the entirety of the tournament. They began the tournament as the favorite, clinching the home course advantage back in September at Dunegrass Golf Club in Maine. They started the tournament on Saturday with their best golf of the spring season. Junior Austin Teal and freshman Ben Palazzo scored 75s, tying for second among the other 20 players in the field. Dan Negus, Alex Viola, and Drew Benshoff followed the two high men shooting 76, 77, 79 respectively. Austin Teal was happy with his Saturday round. “My score on Saturday was about as good as it could have been,” he said. “I didn’t hit the ball particularly well, but I was able to find a way to post a pretty good score. So for that, I was happy.”
Then, with the lead in their hands, the Gulls took to the second round with a full head of steam; Unfortunately, so did Western New England. Their top golfers John Abbott and Matt Fontaine tied each other for a total score of 150 for the two days, with a 74 and a 77 on the second day, tying for second amongst the players. Meanwhile, the Gulls couldn’t maintain their momentum from their first round success. Other than Teal, the rest of the teams scores either increased or stayed the same, with Palazzo’s score jumping above the 80-stroke mark. Among other disappointed teammates, junior Alex Viola was none too thrilled with his performances, explaining that, “I played all right on Saturday but I knew I left a couple shots out there and knew I could do better on Sunday.” As frustrating as it is, with a sport like golf, some days you get the bounces you need, and some days you don’t.
The disappointing season comes as a surprise to the Gulls with fourth year head coach Tom Smith losing his first conference championship as head coach. With his first year with the team, freshman Drew Benshoff had high praise for his coach, saying, “Coach wants us to play our best golf every tournament. The goal is always a conference championship — win or bust. The motivation he brings is great for the team. I know I’ll be able to take that into the summer as I try and get better, and I think we will all use it to try and get the CCC back in our hands.“
Although the team won’t be going to Greensboro North Carolina for this year’s championship, the future still looks bright. With the championship line-up to remain at the school and a large group of incoming freshman to try out for the team, the Gulls are excited about next season. Captain Austin Teal said, “I know everyone on the team took the loss pretty hard, but it will only make us work harder this summer so we can reach our team’s full potential in the fall.” Even with the success that this season brought, Benshoff thinks this young team can do even better next year. “Whenever you have a team this young, you have to find your identity. By the end of the year we were starting to find our identity which we will be able to build on in the fall for the start of next season.”
As captain Austin Teal becomes the senior leader, and freshmen Drew Benshoff and Ben Palazzo become more developed sophomores, the Gulls shouldn’t worry about taking a step back after this season’s devastating loss. Next season will come with high hopes with the “championship or bust” mentality Coach Tom Smith brings to the team. Look for the Gulls to use the summer to build on what they have now and take back the trophy from the young WNE team.