The Woodstock Academy boys golf team finishes season
The Centaurs boys golf team could have been a little happier following its outing at the Division II golf state championship tournament on Monday.
“I talked to the guys and I thought we could have done a little better,” Woodstock Academy coach Rich Garceau said.
Still, the Centaurs did reach their basic goal that Garceau puts before them every time the team qualifies for a tournament.
Finish better than the team is seeded.
The Centaurs accomplished that.
They were seeded 16th and finished in a tie for 13th with a 361 total.
“Some years, you realistically have a chance to vie for a title. In others, that’s relatively unrealistic as a team,” Garceau said.
Senior Mason Stewart was coming off a tie for medalist honors in the Eastern Connecticut Conference boys Open golf championship the week before at the Great Neck Country Club in New London.
He had the round of his life, in his words, with a 75.
Those are not commonplace events and Stewart, betrayed by his putter, fell back to a 19-over par 90 at the Stanley Golf Course in New Britain.
“It’s tough to do that back-to-back,” Garceau said. “I think he’s worked very hard, to some degree, to prove to himself that he is better than he was four years ago. I think he put a lot of that pressure on himself. He wanted to go out on a high note and with young golfers, when they put that pressure on themselves internally, it’s hard to just relax, go out, and play a round of golf.”
The pressure and expectations, from outside and from within, grew after that low score.
“I think Mason realized that he has the ability to score. He did win a Junior PGA tour event last year and lost in a playoff in another. I think he knows he has game, has the ability and he wanted to prove it at the state level, but, unfortunately, it didn’t come quite together,” Garceau said.
Fellow senior Owen Borski, on the other hand, had a pretty good day.
Garceau just happened to be in the right place at the right time on two occasions and saw Borski drop a 40-foot-plus putt and another from over 20-feet.
“One end of the green to the other and they were perfect. If they had missed, they probably would have stopped a few inches from the hole, but they just dropped. He was having a lot of fun,” Garceau said.
Borski led the team with an 86.
“Owen is one of those kids, like Mason, who was not the strongest golfer as a freshman but through his own determination and perseverance has got a lot better, too,” Garceau said. “He hasn’t put up the numbers that Mason did but to see him go out on a high note and score well in an 18-hole match and have some phenomenal putts, I was really happy for him.”
Out of 102 golfers, Borski tied for 32nd while Stewart was 53rd.
Fellow senior Robert Maheu (91) tied for 59th and Jake Starr (94) tied for 72nd.
Senior Liam McDermott finished 93rd.
The Centaurs actually left for the tournament at the conclusion of the Senior Awards Night on Sunday at The Woodstock Academy and stayed overnight in New Britain.
It was the last match for Stewart, Borski, Maheu and McDermott.
“We talked a little about the last four years on the way out and it’s kind of sad to see the guys go. I was a little disappointed they didn’t go out on a better note, but they all had a good time,” Garceau said.
Despite the fact that he is losing four seniors, Garceau is pretty buoyed about the prospect for his 2020 version of the Centaurs.
“I reminded the guys who are coming back that there is always that one guy who seems to step up. Jack Gelhaus did so a couple of years ago, Mason stepped up this year. I expect someone to step up, maybe five guys will step up next year,” the Woodstock Academy coach said. “I’m more excited for next season, this early, than I have been in years.”
That’s because Garceau said the early struggles, mostly due to weather, meant his team got off to a slow start. But his junior varsity, in the last couple of weeks, has come on strong and is ready to step out from the shadows.
“The last couple of weeks, we’ve had some varsity-level scores from the JV kids,” Garceau said. “I think that next year could be a breakout year for us. I’m going to miss these kids, but I’m pretty excited about what we have next year.”
Woodstock Academy will also be moving back into Division I in the Eastern Connecticut Conference.
Some may cringe at that.
Garceau does not since most of his success has come in the ECC’s top division which Woodstock Academy drifts in and out of.
The Centaurs played in Division II this year and get to avoid battling the likes of Killingly and Stonington, and even East Lyme which is dropping to Division II, next year in the battle for a division championship. The Centaurs will be paired with Norwich Free Academy, New London and Fitch in 2020.
“I told the guys that there is an opportunity for us to grab an ECC title next year. It’s all in their hands; how much they want it, how hard they want to work for it, and if they get out in there in the summer and play,” Garceau said.
Much to his surprise, several of his younger golfers are now junior members at Quinnatisset Country Club in Thompson, the team's home course, and he’s hoping they take advantage of it to play in the offseason.
“The kids that get out and play, get it done, good things happen,” Garceau said.
Stewart ties for medalist honors at ECC Open
Both Woodstock Academy coach Rich Garceau and golfer Mason Stewart remembered where the senior started.
“From where he was as a freshman to where he is now is special,” Garceau said on Thursday after he had just watched Stewart share first-place honors with two other golfers at the Eastern Connecticut Conference Open boys golf championship at the Great Neck Country Club in New London.
“To be honest, he struggled to break 60 (in 9 holes) as a freshman. He could have packed it in,” Garceau said. “That’s the great thing about doing this. You see a kid who wants to get better and they do all the right things to put themselves in this position. I’m thrilled for Mason.”
Stewart shocked himself just a bit.
He shot a 75 to tie Killingly’s Nolan Marcoux and Tourtellotte’s Jared Belanger for the medalist honors.
“I surprised myself. I putted way better than I ever have. I had the round of my life and tied some really great golfers. Nothing to complain about,” Stewart said.
Garceau may beg to differ a bit on that.
Stewart did have some struggles on the course although the coach blamed himself a bit for those.
“The only bad holes he had was when I showed up. So after I realized that, I tried to make myself scarce,” Garceau said with a laugh. “Mason has the ability to scramble. He put himself in some really bad places (Thursday) and was able to put it behind him.”
The highlight for Stewart came where many could see.
Belanger, who was in Stewart’s group, was up on Stewart by a shot going into the 18th hole.
The Woodstock Academy senior had 195 yards in to the par-5 after his drive.
Since he was down wind and it was a little breezy, Stewart opted to drop down from a 6-iron to his seven.
He put the ball on the green, 10 feet from the hole.
Belanger was 25-feet from the hole in the fringe, putted before Stewart, and sank the birdie putt.
“My heart kind of dropped,” Stewart said. “I thought, ‘Well, we just have to make this one.’ I read it and I hit it perfectly. I gave it a big Tiger (Woods) fist pump.”
The eagle for Stewart pulled him into a tie with both Belanger and Marcoux. The Killingly golfer was in one of the first groups to come off the course and was sitting for quite a while alone atop the leaderboard.
Stewart said his short game was on Thursday.
Anything inside 100 yards, he was up-and-down on.
The only place he struggled, at times, was off the tee.
He wasn’t bothered by the breezy, almost raw conditions.
“I liked it,” Stewart said. “The wind wasn’t too much. It helped you on some shots, against you on others. You learn to accept it and play with it.”
The thing about Stewart is that he is a gamer.
“He worked hard,” Garceau said of Stewart’s development. “He did everything he needed to do. He listened to advice which, sometimes, for a kid is an amazing characteristic; be willing to listen and then, put it into action. He got himself out. Instead of sitting around the whole summer, he played tournaments, he practiced chipping in his backyard. He had the desire and some natural athleticism. You put all of that together and, next thing you know, you have an ECC championship golfer.”
The team, as a whole, had its difficulties with the Great Neck course.
The Centaurs finished with a 354 total, 31 strokes behind East Lyme which won its first ECC title since 1973, but good enough for a fifth-place finish.
“I know some of the guys are disappointed with the way they played. I was glad I could come in with a low score so we finished pretty well in the ECC. The difference from the beginning of the year to now, as a group, even off the golf course is a lot better. I couldn’t ask for a better team,” Stewart said.
Owen Borski tied for 19th with an 88 with Liam McDermott (94) in 33rd; Jake Starr (97) in 38th and Robert Maheu (101) in 42nd.
“They were disappointed, they had their struggles and had some of their better scores (Wednesday in a tie with Killingly). That’s fine. Wednesday was great and I was really pleased with finishing strong. The thing that really made me happy was when we got done, went into the clubhouse and were sitting together, that no one seemed to care if they played a bad round. Everybody was thrilled for Mason, knowing where he came from and where he is at now. Now, he’s going to graduate and serve his country in a few weeks. I think it was pretty special to see all the guys rally around him,” Garceau said.
Stewart is going to enlist in the Army.
The season is not over for the Centaurs.
They go back out on the course for another 18-hole endeavor at the Division II state championship on Monday morning at the Stanley Golf Course in New Britain.
“I need more time on the range to iron out a few of the problems with my driver,” Stewart said.
Centaurs tie Redmen, down Tourtellotte
The Centaurs earned a split with Killingly, 3 1/2 - 3 1/2, at the Quinnatisset Country Club Wednesday.
The tie with Woodstock Academy meant Killingly shared the ECC Division II regular season title with Waterford.
Both sported a 4-1-1 divisional record and both the Redmen and Lancers tied one of their matches with the Centaurs (0-4-2).
Mason Stewart of the Centaurs (9-6-2) and Killingly’s Noah Marcoux shared a point, both shot a 4-over par 40.
Owen Borski (42), Liam McDermott (47) and Robert Maheu (43) scored wins for Woodstock Academy while Killingly (17-1-2) took the two team aggregate points.
The Redmen just edged the Centaurs in total strokes, 168-171.
Both teams will compete again on Thursday in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Open championship at the Great Neck Country Club in New London.
Centaurs overcome weather, Tigers
The Centaurs and Tourtellotte Tigers found it rough to get this one in.
The match had already been postponed twice and was threatened by weather a third time on Tuesday.
The weather held off long enough, however, to allow the two teams to play at the Raceway Golf Course.
The Centaurs were happy to get it in as they downed Tourtellotte, 5-2.
The win raised Woodstock Academy's record to 8-6-1.
Owen Borski shot a 45, Jake Starr finished with a 46 and Liam McDermott a 47 and all took the individual victories for the Centaurs.
Woodstock Academy also received two points for lowest aggregate score of 177.
Mason Stewart posted the best score for the Centaurs, a 3-over par 39, but fell two strokes shy of Jared Belanger who was medalist in the match for Tourtellotte.
Week 7 review: Last matches of season ahead
It’s a trait that is sometimes hard to drag out of not only individuals, but teams, especially when things may not be going wonderful.
The Woodstock Academy boys golf team is a case in point.
The Centaurs suffered a pair of losses last week to Stonington and East Lyme.
So, coach Rich Garceau is just trying to work on his team’s mindset.
“My goal is for the Woodstock team to simply play the best golf they know how to play. I don’t necessarily expect them to win, but I do expect them to be competitive,” Garceau said. “The past few days we have focused on playing golf with a positive mindset. In golf, nothing is absolute. Momentum is a huge factor in the final outcome. Positive thinking is key to turning a poor golf round into a great golf round and changing momentum. If we stay positive, we will be competitive.”
The Centaurs (7-6-1, 0-4-1 Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II) fell to the Bears, 5 ½ - 1 ½ , at the Quinnatisset Country Club Tuesday.
The fifth player, Robert Maheu, was the only Centaur to get a full point as he downed Aidan Adams, 43-55.
Top player Mason Stewart earned the other half-point when he tied Stonington’s No. 1, Grant Hamilton, both shot a 4-over par 40.
The Centaurs had it even tougher at the Old Lyme Country Club Wednesday.
Woodstock Academy fell to East Lyme, 7-0.
But, despite the score, the Centaurs competed against the Vikings.
Stewart lost by only four strokes to East Lyme’s top golfer, Evan Kluge, 38-42.
Owen Borski was just a stroke behind Matt Orefice, 42-43, in the battle of No. 3 golfers.
The Centaurs were playing even better on Thursday, only to see their match with Tourtellotte abruptly ended by the weather.
“We were on pace for our best score of the season until we had to call the match off because of lightning in the area, Garceau said. “The boys were on pace for approximately a 164 total, which would potentially have beaten many of the favorites at the ECC tournament. I feel good about where we are right now.”
The Centaurs will finish up the regular season this week with two matches against Tourtellotte. The two will try again at the Raceway Golf Course on Tuesday. The scene then shifts to the Quinnatisset Country Club on Wednesday in a match that will also include Killingly.
The ECC Open will then be contested on Thursday at the Great Neck Country Club in New London.
“I do think East Lyme is the odds on favorite to win the ECC Tournament next week,” Garceau said. “That said, I don’t think it is inevitable. The winner will be the team that executes their game plan the best. We play 9-hole matches 16 times a season but one 18-hole round for our championship. The ability to maintain focus for nearly 5 hours is hard. Sprinters struggle in marathons. Teams with experience in 18-hole competitive golf will have a big advantage. Killingly, Stonington and Waterford have experienced golfers and will have a lot to say regarding the final outcome of the tournament, too. Focus and execution will win the tournament.”
Killingly actually handed East Lyme (14-1) its first loss last week.