By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington coach Jim DiNello hasn’t been able to watch his Blue Knight golf team practice much this season, and weather hasn’t helped his selection of a varsity lineup. But if last year is any indication, DiNello said that this year’s team should have a really nice blend of experience and leadership.
“The thing about this group is that they have a really good, relaxed attitude about the game,” said DiNello. “Ours guys this year have a really good approach. Our youth is going to fun to watch how they grow through the year.”
A mixture of youth and maturity, the young guys on this year’s team are golf fanatics, according to DiNello, and can’t get enough of the game, playing constantly. He said that they’re out on the golf course on weekends and during the summer, and to DiNello, that’s the key to success, especially in golf.
“They, at times, will go home from practice and grab a bite to eat,” said DiNello. “Then, next thing you know, I’ll see them at the club playing again. As soon as the season ends, it’s like their season never ends. They’re always outside playing the game.”
The Knights finished the 2017 season at 8-8 overall (5-4 home, 2-5 away), placing third in the CCC Central Blue Division with a 6-7 record in the CCC Central Region (3-5 in CCC Central Blue). In the postseason, they placed eighth at the CCC Championship, held at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain, and finished just outside the top 10 in 13th at the Division I Championship, held at Fairview Farms Golf Club in Harwinton, with scores of 329.
The Knights had a rocky start to the 2017 season and began last spring with a 2-5 record in their first seven matches. But they got hot down the stretch by winning six of their final nine matches of the regular season, heading into the postseason with a five-match winning streak.
Finishing off the regular season strong improved the team’s ranking in Division I and got them into a later tee time at the state championship. Even though they were a pretty young team, the Knights got to play with some of the best teams in the state in their foursomes.
DiNello said that last year’s team grew a lot, learned a lot, and gained some valuable experience for the upcoming season.
“Going into the season, I was hoping that our younger guys would have that opportunity of playing in the top four or, at least, in the second foursome, so that they would really play with some experienced, seasoned programs.” said DiNello. “It would be a great learning experience, and it ended up being that way.”
The Knights lost just three of 13 golfers to graduation after last season. However, one happened to be the team’s top scorer and only all-conference golfer, who led Southington at both the conference and state championships. The other of the three fluctuated between the team’s No. 2 and 3 golfer throughout the season.
CJ McManus and Cameron Zegzdryn are the only seniors returning to this year’s varsity team. Zegzdryn was named as the team’s lone captain for the upcoming season.
McManus, who played at No. 4 for the Knights last year, and Zegzdryn made appearances in the conference and state championships, as both tied for the team’s third-lowest score at the conference championship.
At the state championship, McManus shot the team’s third-lowest score with an 11-over-par 83 (T48th), and Zegzdryn was right behind with a 16-over-par 88 (T71st).
DiNello said that McManus is not a power play, but he relies on course management. He said that McManus would tell you that he wasn’t putting up the scores that he would’ve liked to put up last year, and a lot of his issues happened from 120 yards and in.
DiNello said that he and McManus spent a lot of time working on dialing in certain distances inside of 130 yards.
“As soon as that started to happen, he was comfortable and knew what club he was going to pull out of his bag for certain shots,” said DiNello. “His scores really started to drop.”
DiNello said that Zegzdryn has a ton of athletic ability. Distance-wise, Zegzdryn is one of the longest players that Southington has had come through the program, according to DiNello.
But in order to control the golf ball a little bit better, DiNello said that Zegzdryn needs to be able to really spend a lot of his time learning how to hit half, three-quarter, and quarter-shots to master his distances, rather than hitting every single club as far as he can hit it, hoping that he’s on the right number during the course of a round.
“He has to make more yardages be more comfortable for him,” said DiNello. “When he harnesses the power that he has and is able to incorporate more fineness into the game, you’re really going to see him take the next step.”
Colby Zegzdryn is the only junior returning to the varsity team.
Sophomores returning include Austin Carta, Maxwell Chubet, and Shawn McInerney. All three broke into the varsity lineup as freshmen, and DiNello said that they should seek prominent roles this season.
Chubet is the only underclassman returning with Division I experience. He fired the team’s second-lowest score at last year’s state championship with an 8-over-par 80, tying for 36th out of 101 golfers.
Following a realignment of the CCC, Southington is now in the West Division along with Avon, Conard, Farmington, Hall, NW Catholic, and Simsbury. The East Division includes East Catholic, Enfield, EO Smith, Manchester, RHAM, South Windsor, and Tolland.
The North Division consists of Berlin, East Hartford, Glastonbury, Newington, Rocky Hill, Wethersfield, and Windsor. The South Division includes Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, Maloney, Middletown, New Britain, Plainville, and Platt.
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