CLINTON >> High school golf teams have plenty of opportunities to achieve success during the regular season. But when it comes to postseason success, it comes down to two days at most.
The first day is for the league tournament championship. The second day is for the state championship. Teams can have great individual players, but need five players on these given days to win team titles.
Morgan came up with two big performances on those given days last June. As a result, the Huskies won both a Shoreline Conference and Division IV state championship.
“It’s a great feeling knowing you were on top, that no one else was better than you at that point and time, to be better that day than teams you played against” said junior Maxx Bugg.
It was the first Shoreline title for Morgan since 1992. It helped that the Huskies played on their home course, Clinton Country Club.
The Division IV state championship was played at Crestbrook Park in Watertown, a much more unfamiliar course to the Huskies. But Morgan beat out Coventry by two strokes to win the first state title in program history.
“To the people in the community beyond our immediate sports fan base, they really understand the significance of that,” Morgan golf coach Eric Bergman said. “We can participate in these so-called elite type of sports and win.”
Senior Gabe Van Ness shot 76 in that round at Crestbrook last season. He has been the team’s No. 1 player each of his four seasons. Bergman said the goal when Van Ness arrived was to qualify for the state tournament – the Huskies have done that all four years.
With Van Ness, Bugg and sophomore Kevin Daley all returning, Morgan has a legitimate shot to repeat for both titles.
Can the Huskies do it?
“Maxx, Kevin and I have all played well this year,” Van Ness said. “We are all better than last year. On any given day, we can shoot pretty low. Our biggest challenge is holding up under pressure, which is every team’s challenge. Our team has a little bit of an advantage because I play so many (non-high school) tournaments and Maxx and Kevin play a lot, but you never know.”
Said Bergman: “Absolutely, no question (pressure to defend), that’s underlying thing. We haven’t focused on it specifically for that reason. People in town come up to us asking, ‘Are you going to defend this year?’”
Van Ness has been the medalist or co-medalist in his team matches seven times with a 2.49 stroke differential (average shots over par per match). He was a Register All-Area selection last season and received a partial scholarship to play at Division I Bryant this fall.
“(Bryant) was the first school to give me an offer last November,” Van Ness said. “When I went on my official visit, I loved the kids (on the team), I loved the coach and I felt like I’d be stupid not to take this because no one else seemed terribly interested (at the time).”
Bugg has been the medalist or co-medalist five times and has a 2.29 stroke differential.
“Gave and Maxx haven’t reached their peak and I think both would admit that as well,” Bergman said.
Daley has a 6.27 stroke differential and was co-medalist once with Van Ness.
Freshmen Jack Bugg, Maxx’s brother, and Burton Caldwell are the Huskies No. 4 and 5 players, respectively. Their performances will be key next month.
Morgan is 21-1, it’s one loss to Hand, the reigning two-time Division II state champion. Last year, Morgan lost four matches, including a couple in the Shoreline Conference.
“In golf, once something is over with, it’s over with,” Maxx Bugg said. “You look forward to what is in front of you. Our focus is on playing good golf and getting the trophies.”
The first chance at a trophy comes on June 4. The Shoreline championship will be held at Alling Memorial Golf Course in New Haven. It is a public facility that none of the Shoreline schools use as a home course.
“We chose Alling because we as a league wanted to find a decent public course that gave access to every player in the league, where everyone can play and bring some equity to the championship,” Bergman said. “I think last year, we could have played in a parking lot and won the Shorelines. I don’t think it (playing their home course) factored in, but it could have. And I think any time you play a private course where other teams don’t have access, it’s an unfair situation.”
Bergman scheduled a regular-season match with East Haven at Alling last Wednesday to give the players a preview of what to expect.
The Division IV state championship meet will be held June 11 at Timberlin GC in Kensington.
“There are four or five teams that could do it and like last year, things have to go right on that day,” Bergman said.
Said Bugg: “To win it again, it would mean it was not a fluke. It would feel better because my brother is on the team. People kind of make fun of golf because they don’t know how hard it really is, but we have gotten golf to be kind of cool at our school.”