Forget the match schedule; Newtown High School’s boys’ golf team has significant competition every day it has practice at its home course, Rock Ridge Country Club. The Nighthawks’ roster, already loaded with strong returnees, is bolstered by several emerging newcomers who are playing their way into the starting lineup.
Three matches into the season, Coach Bill Flood had three different starting fives as he shuffles the top handful of golfers based on match and practice performances.
“I’m loaded. I feel like this is the most talent I’ve had in three years,” said Flood, who took over head coaching duties in 2011.
Junior captain Brian LeBlanc is back as the team’s top golfer and returnee Vivek Tedla begins the season as the team’s No. 2 player. From there, returnees, including captain Chris Erickson and captain Stephen Rahr are battling for playing time with Graham Hubbert, Dan Harrison, Ryan Palmer, Tommy Rahr, Josh Houle, and Colin Patrick.
“This is the best I’ve ever had,” Flood said of his depth throughout the roster. “I have the kids battling four days a week for spots — that’s healthy for a golf team.”
What’s more, junior varsity players Jim Widmann, Alister Sore, Jacob Burden, Matt Perun, and Mike Macchiarulo all stand to get some varsity playing time this spring, pending their development, said Flood, adding that he believes his JV group could compete with some of the varsity squads in the conference. Flood cut 13 players from the program he said.
Last year’s team finished seventh in the South-West Conference championships, and Flood is eyeing a top-two result this time around. Flood believes his Nighthawks and Pomperaug of Southbury are top teams. “I think we can beat Pomperaug,” Flood said of last year’s conference winner.
Weston, which narrowly missed winning the title a year ago, Joel Barlow of Redding, and New Milford are other strong teams in the conference, the coach said.
If Newtown’s veteran golfers step up and the up-and-coming newcomers develop quickly, this stands to be a very successful campaign, Flood said.
The coach expects LeBlanc to be an All SWC honoree and to compete in the state tournament, and for Vivek to likely be an All SWC selection as well.
Among the golfers who have to be replaced is 2012 graduate Abbey Doski who competed with the boys since there is no girls’ golf program at NHS. Doski won four consecutive SWC individual girls’ golf championships during her high school career.