HEBRON — Jack Woods spent a lot of time watching the final scores trickle in after carding a 5-over par 77 at Tallwood Country Club on Monday. The suspense for Woods and his Immaculate teammates was palpable.
“It was definitely a very stressful time, but the stress is good,” Woods would later say. “It means you’re in it.”
The wait was worth it for Immaculate, especially after two straight years of runner-up finishes. The Mustangs claimed the Division-IV state golf championship, recording an overall score of 323 to edge Northwest Catholic by one stroke, Coginchaug by two and Old Lyme by three.
“It was nerve-wracking coming down to the end,” coach Mark LaPorte said. “We knew it was going to be close the whole day. We came in better than we did last week at our league tournament, so it was great to see we improved and stepped up to the challenge.”
Dan LeBlanc followed up Woods’ 77 with a 78 on sun-soaked yet windy afternoon. Ryan Fanella (83) and Nick Iannetta (85) rounded out the scoring for the Mustangs, who won their first state title. Three-time defending champion Portland came in fifth with a 333.
“We definitely had some expectations to be up there,” Woods said. “We’ve gotten second the past (two) years, so it was a long way coming. It definitely makes it that much better to make it to first place.”
St. Paul Catholic’s Michael Dolce and Coginchaug’s Tyler Woodward were co-medalists at 76. Gilbert’s Hillson Liu matched Woods’ 77 to come in second. Ten players broke 80.
Dolce hadn’t shot better than 77 since last year. The St. Paul junior rebounded from a pair of double-bogeys by birdying the 15th and 16th holes.
“To be honest, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere near as well as it did today,” Dolce said. “I was at the range the last few days and nothing was going my way. Stuff just started to click. I guess every so often, a blind squirrel finds a nut.”
Woodward wasn’t as satisfied with his performance, saying it “wasn’t my greatest day.” He shot birdies on six and 12, but bogeyed 14.
“I would just call it a scrappy round,” Woodward said. “A 76 was OK. I’m glad I was good enough to co-medal, but obviously, everybody wants to win.”
Old Lyme’s Thomas Creagan, LeBlanc and Coginchaug’s EJ Dzialo each shot 78 to tie for fifth. Michael Hills of Terryville, Jared Belanger of Tourtellotte and Justin Mathew of Northwest Catholic all carded 79.
Every stroke proved crucial for the Mustangs, who waited more than an hour in the clubhouse for the final pairings to conclude. They were prepared for every possible scenario.
“For three strokes to separate the top four teams, that was insane,” Fanella said. “I was completely nervous. We were about to run over to the driving range for a playoff hole.”
(at Tallwood CC)