By John Goralski
The wind whistled across the front window of the clubhouse and four wind-burned Knights stared at the door, waiting for the final golfer. The senior co-captains matched NW Catholic’s top guns over nine holes. The sophomore phenoms had actually built a nice lead in the second foursome.
On most days, the Southington team would have been overjoyed to be in a position to win against a Farmington team on a Farmington course. With gusts topping out over 35 miles per hour and a sudden chill that turned the greens harder than ice, it almost seemed surreal.
Even when Farmington’s final shooter forced a tie with the lowest score of the day, Blue Knight coach Jim DiNello had trouble concealing his grin.
“Shooting a 160 in these conditions is really bad,” the coach said with a laugh. “This was just another great performance. When they walk off the course and tell me that they didn’t leave any shots out there, that’s all I can ask for as a coach. Our guys played hard. They really grinded it out, and I’m proud of them.”
Southington’s record might not turn heads at first glance with a win, a loss, and a tie in their first three matches, but the Knights—with just two seniors in their lineup—are holding their own against senior laden powers and former state champions.
The young Knights have already posted three ‘keepers’ in three matches despite poor conditions. The locals have yet to lose on the road, and their worst score has been the 160 stroke tie against Farmington on the road in the wind.
“That says that we’re a good golf team with good golfers, and it says a lot about our resiliency,” said DiNello. “When they go out there, they really work hard and give everything that they have to put up a good score. That’s a tribute to them and the hard work they’re putting in.”
In fact, the 1-1-1 record has landed the Knights smack dab in the middle of the conference standings after a week and a half. It’s too early to predict, but Southington has had to rely upon late runs in recent years as they try to overcome slow starts.
If this is a slow start, fans might have a lot to cheer about this spring.
“I’m hoping that things hold true, and we have the same patter that we’ve had over the last couple of years,” DiNello said. “We usually play our best golf at the end. If that holds true, this could be a really, really tremendous finish. We could do some really great things this year.”
The Knights are doing it with a balanced rotation. In the first match of the week, Dave Valentukonis and Eric Flood both finished 2 over par (36) at Hawks Landing to tie as medalists against Hall. Sophomores Drew Szandrocha and Jacob D’Alessandro led the Knights against Farmington with 39s.
Southington lost to Hall by one stroke, 155-156, and tied Farmington, 160-160.
“I sound like a broken record, but both were classic CCC West rivalries with two really good golf teams,” said DiNello. “The way our division is set up, it’s great to see. We’ve seen teams winning by one, losing by one, and now we’ve got a tie. It’s going to be this way the whole year, and that’s a lot of fun. We play in a very good golf division with a lot of great teams, and the matches are going to be close.”
In addition, the Knights are showing a depth that they haven’t shown in recent years as the battle for the No. 5 spot continues to heat up. Mitch Baker competed as the fifth man against Hall, but Ryan Burrill battled at Farmington.
DiNello expects that position to be up for grabs over the next few weeks as a handful of Knights compete in practice rounds for the chance to play.
“The nice thing is that we have solid golfers in our rotation every day,” said the coach. I’m confident that, on any given day and anywhere we go we’re capable of playing terrific golf.”
When the weather breaks, Southington could really start turning heads.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By John Goralski