TEWKSBURY — Last season was truly a magical one for the Tewksbury High Golf team. The Redmen battled their way to the MVC Division 2 title, going 8-5 overall, while posting a perfect 8-0 record within the league to capture the title.
With the loss of its top four players to graduation with Cam Grace, Kyle Lombardo, Mike Polimeno and Ben Froment, the Redmen will be looking to defend their title this season with a mix of both players that were a part of that championship team, as well as some newcomers to the varsity team. The seasons team will consist of a mixture of five seniors, four juniors and one sophomore.
"This year’s group is a very good mixture of returning letter winners with experience and newcomers that enjoyed success at the junior varsity level last season,” Tewksbury coach Jim Sullivan said.
The Redmen will need that strong mixture of players to raise their game to a very high level if they hope to once again compete in the extremely strong Merrimack Valley Conference.
"I say it every year. This conference is as strong in golf as it is in all of the high profile sports as football, hockey, basketball and baseball are state wide,” Sullivan said. “Billerica, Central Catholic, North Andover have all won state championships recently, along with perennial powerhouse programs Haverhill, Lowell and Andover always right there as well.
“These teams all had players playing in the Massachusetts State Junior Amateur Tournament a few weeks ago which tell you how good they are at the top of their lineups.”
While the Redmen’s opponents certainly have some strong players the Redmen have some talent of their own at the top of the lineup, including number one player, junior co-captain Anthony Pecci, who recently bested a talented field to win the Lowell Junior Cities Golf Tournament at Nabnassett Golf Club in Westford.
"That was a fantastic accomplishment for Anthony, and will be excellent experience for him come the end of the season as long as we're able to get to the sectionals and hopefully the state tournament,” Sullivan said. “That tournament was stroke play, which is what everyone is used to seeing and watching on TV, but our league play is based in a match play format where one player doesn't have the ability to go out and win the match for the team based upon his individual play.
“His individual play can get you two of the twenty points, and potentially three if he is better than everyone in his group, but that's a far cry from the ten and a half you need to win a match!"
Sullivan believes that's where the team’s strength lies overall, starting with Pecci and number two player, junior John Beatrice.
"Our top two guys will both be juniors that played together all season last year at the five and six spots,” Sullivan said. “Those two guys are both good players and they really push each other each day in practice. They play well together as they have been buddies growing up and playing hockey together as well. They are going to be up against some really tough players as previously mentioned, but they are able to handle it and they play off one another pretty well as they showed last season. We have a big expectation of these guys at the top of the order as they do themselves."
Based on early results from tryouts and practices from last week, it looks as though senior co-captain Garrett Kingston will be stepping into the number three spot, while newcomer, sophomore Brady Lane will be in the four spot.
“Both guys are very quiet and reserved, but have an inner confidence about themselves and their games,” said Sullivan. “Garrett has been a fantastic leader here since the end of last season in organizing off season work as well as relaying my expectations to players prior to tryouts so that everyone knew what was going on, what to expect and how to act and behave both off and on the course. Garrett will be heavily relied upon in the three spot as a player, but his leadership and help in developing Brady will be of equal importance.
“Brady had a very strong season last year on the junior varsity team as he played at the top of the order. He was very steady and our most consistent player there last year and he came here to tryouts and continued that play again this season! We're very excited to have Brady as a first year varsity player and look forward to his development not only for this year, but with an eye on the future as well.”
The rest of the lineup has yet to be determined, and Sullivan feels like that is a good thing, as his team has a number of talented players competing for the final four spots in the starting lineup.
“This season we appear to have a deeper group who mostly finished up this past week with very similar averages and all competed very well in match play against one another and as a result, we will have six players competing weekly for the five through eight spots in matches,” Sullivan said.
Those six players competing are seniors Jake Nordstrom, Max Cummings, Campbell Pierce and Angelina Carew as well as juniors Joe Pazyra and Sam White.
“As we sit, with a match on Wednesday, it looks like we will start with Jake at the five and Sam at the six while Joe and Max will play in the seven and eight spots,” Sullivan said. “Jake and Sam did a really good job for us last season in the seven and eight spots, so them moving up to the five and six shouldn't really be any kind of issue and newcomers Pazyra and Cummings, who have been playing very well in tryouts and practice should be a big strength for us there as well.”
This battle for sports in the lineup will certainly bring out the best in players, but with some teams it could also cause a rift among teammates. Sullivan says that is not an issue with this group of players.
“The players all know and understand that we are deeper than ever before and have all bought into the ‘We over Me’ mentality,” Sullivan said. “We don't have anyone complaining that they should be four or five instead of eight or six instead of eight, things like that. This has been a great group early on being willing and accepting of that and I really don't see that changing.
“Seniors Campbell Pierce and Angelina Carew embody that more than anyone. Both would say that they had a tough tryout and first week based on their expectation and level of play that they have shown in the past. Neither has changed one bit in their determination, effort and commitment, and as a result, they will be battling and competing weekly in practice for the five through eight spots.
“I have no doubt in my mind that both Campbell and Angelina will help us be successful this season and will come through for us in a big spot when called upon.”
Last year’s seniors, Grace, Lombardo, Polimeno and Froment may be gone, but they will not be forgotten, as Sullivan is hoping this year’s group will carry over many of the lessons learned from the former Redmen.
“Last season was great for that group of seniors to be able to go out as league champions as they were fantastic people, golfers and students,” Sullivan said. “When you have players that are two and three sport athletes like they were and have success in the classroom and go on to attend schools like Bentley, Suffolk, Clemson and RIT, you most likely will have success on the athletic field as well and they all did and I couldn't have been happier or prouder of and for them.
“This group of players all have the same attributes about them as well and hopefully something special will happen for them as well. In order to get there though, it will be the same thing as last year, we'll be out there every day looking to improve and get better.”
Tewksbury opened the season on Wednesday against Chelmsford with results not known as of presstime and will be back in action on Thursday with an away match against Haverhill before hosting Methuen at the Trull Brook Course on Monday, which had originally been scheduled for Tuesday. Both matches are slated to begin at 3:00 pm