HARWINTON >> Lewis Mills freshman Colby Norton won a sudden-death play-off with Wamogo’s Sean Brady for the individual title in a Berkshire League All-Star Golf Tournament that managed to flash back an entire BL season Tuesday morning at Harwinton’s Fairview Farm Golf Course.
Gilbert seemingly came out of nowhere to surprise perennial champion Lewis Mills (two-year defending league champions; 11 of the last 13 league titles) in the regular season for this year’s league championship. So an individual and team BL Tournament championship for Mills – 340 to 347 for second-place Gilbert – was a measure of Spartan revenge for two regular-season losses to the Yellowjackets.
“We didn’t see them coming,” said veteran Lewis Mills Coach Jay Pelchar.
Who would have, despite a second-year Gilbert coach whose day job is golf pro at Fairview Farm?
Bob Sparks, the Yellowjacket coach, got his coaching job almost by accident while meeting with Gilbert Athletic Director Pat Cooke to set up a tournament at Fairview Farm.
“He said he was looking for a golf coach and I said ‘What about me?’” smiled Sparks, a Gilbert graduate who’s been the Fairview Farm pro since the course opened 17 years ago.
Last year, Sparks had 18 kids turn out after teaching indoor golf in Gilbert gym classes. This year, in addition to returners Conor Bailey, a sophomore in the No. 1 slot, and junior Jeremy Huber, No. 5, the happy surprises, even to the Yellowjackets, included No. 2 Hillson Liu, an international student from China; No. 3 Dylan Keith, a freshman; and Jake Royer, a transfer from Torrington at No. 4.
“We talked about how the team was viewed in the school and said, ‘We are going to change that image,’” said Coach Sparks, following a number of down years in golf for Gilbert. “This is one of those teams who just kind of gelled.”
They surprised the Spartans in an early match. In the final regular-season head-to-head match with Mills for the league title, Keith, the Yellowjacket freshman, shot a 39 for nine holes.
How fitting is it, then, that Mills freshman Norton led the way for his team win Tuesday in another matchup between premier teams who lose just one senior apiece from this year’s teams?
“We have a lot of motivation for next year,” said Mills Coach Pelchar.
Tuesday, the regular-season flashbacks continued with the first tournament group in from their 18 holes.
“We were a little nervous after the (first) Mills win,” said Gilbert’s Bailey, well aware that the last previous Gilbert golf title came 22 years ago, in 1995.
“Everything went great; then we came across Wamogo.”
The Warriors, fourth in the league, were the only winners against Gilbert (18-2) in the regular season, once in a league match and again in a match that didn’t count for league standing.
“One of those came when one of their players’ card was disqualified, so it was a bittersweet win, but we played well,” said Brady, who tied Norton with a 78 before Tuesday’s playoff.
Brady, a senior set to play at Division III Roger Williams University, reflects a league passion for the sport, proclaiming his own efforts to recruit quality players for the Warriors, including one from the baseball team and another from lacrosse.
Jey Herman, a senior from third-place Nonnewaug, backs up the passion via his team’s efforts to play well for new coach Ryan Campanario.
“We didn’t play as well as we wanted to,” he said, “but it was nice to see the end of Gilbert’s suffering. We felt sorry for them when I first started playing.”
On Tuesday, Lewis Mills players threw down the gauntlet for next year’s challenge.
Meanwhile, nobody’s feeling sorry for the Yellowjackets.
All-Star Golf Tournament
(Top four teams plus 12 individuals with highest season averages over course ratings from the remaining teams)
At Fariview Farm Golf Course, Harwinton
Team Scores: 1. Lewis Mills 340; 2. Gilbert 347; 3. Wamogo 370; 4. Nonnewaug 374.
Top 10 Tournament Scores: 1. Colby Norton, Lewis MIlls 78 (playoff winner); 2. Sean Brady, Wamogo 78; 3. Tyler Goulet, Lewis Mills 83; 4. (tie) Hillson Liu, Gilbert/Andrew LeBlanc, Lewis Mills 84; 6. (tie) Jey Herman, Nonnewaug/Mike Hills, Terryville 85; 8. Dylan Keith, Gilbert 86; 9. (tie) Jake Royer, Gilbert/Eamon Crossley, Shepaug 89.
BL All-Stars (Determined by league formula: two thirds average strokes above course ratings; one third All-Star Tournament score): Gilbert – Dylan Keith, Hllson Liu, Conor Bailey; Lewis Mills – Colby Norton, Tyler Goulet; Wamogo – Sean Brady; Nonnewaug – Jey Herman.
Team Sportsmanship Award: Litchfield.