By John Goralski
Coach Jim DiNello heard the rumors long before he caught sight of Steve Salmon at the Hawks Landing clubhouse. News of Salmon’s drive on the 16th hole rippled through the lineup while DiNello studied his varsity golfers approaching the last green.
When Salmon’s exploits reached his coach’s ears, DiNello actually turned away from the hard-fought battle before him. He couldn’t help himself.
Junior varsity golfers rarely make headlines. They’re usually content to battle in the trenches while the top five gather the glory, but on Tuesday, May 13, it was Salmon’s efforts on the back nine that sparked conversation after the varsity meet.
The sophomore duffer drove his ball 180 yards off the 16th tee to score a hole-in-one on the par-3 hole.
“There are a lot of golfers in the world that never get to experience a hole in one. It was great, but Steve’s a great individual. He works hard, and it was just one of those things that I’ll never forget,” said DiNello. “It was great to see how excited he was, but it was even better to see how excited the other guys were for him.”
The Knights have a lot to be excited about these days. The varsity team is battling against some of the best programs in the state, and they’re right in the mix at 6-4-1. The JV team is proving Southington’s depth with an impressive 8-1 record. The Knights lost both contests last week, but the team actually improved their position for the upcoming Division I state tournament.
Southington (4-4-1 in the CCC West) trails Simsbury (10-0) by an almost insurmountable lead, but the Knights are winning where it counts.
Southington lost to NW Catholic 148-151 to start the week. They lost at Hall, 149-153, on Thursday, but the scores were low enough and consistent enough to push the Knights into the top three in the Division I standings with a 15.44 course differential. Even undefeated Simsbury (17.92) trails the Knights in the rankings.
“We’re in an upper echelon situation right now, so there’s nothing to get down about after two losses,” said DiNello. “It was another great effort by our guys, but it was a great effort by NW Catholic and Hall, too.”
On Tuesday, Salmon scored his hole-in-one as the varsity boys battled the Indians to a 3-stroke loss on their home course. Tad Link scored medalist honors with a 36 for NW Catholic. Jake D’Alessandro and Drew Szandrocha led the Knights with 37s. Eric Flood (38) and Joe Fazzino (39) scored.
Southington posted four of the top six scores, but NW Catholic scored the victory.
“Sometimes all you can do is tip your cap and say, ‘Wow. That was a great round of golf,’” said DiNello. “They beat us, but to a person our guys were saying that we should have been the team that scored in the 140s. Even though I was telling them that a 151 is an excellent score with every one of our guys hitting in the 30s, but they weren’t happy with it. They said that we should be shooting in the 140s every time on their home course, and that was really refreshing to hear.”
On Thursday, Southington scored a trio of golfers in the 30s, but Southington was edged by four strokes at Rockledge Golf Course in West Hartford. Connor Cunningham and Chris Butler went 2-under to lead Hall. Southington scored five of the next six scores, but Hall scored the win.
“This is life in the CCC West,” said DiNello. “I’ve probably said it a million times, but it’s the best golf in the state.”
Now, the Knights will try to build on their fast start as they head into the final stretch. This week, they’ll host Farmington and Simsbury. Southington has six more contests on the schedule, so there are six more chances to lower their differential score.
“Our guys are really looking forward to that challenge, and then we’ll send a couple of guys on the road to the Chappa Invitational on Thursday,” said DiNello. “We’ve got a pretty busy week.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.