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Killingly edges NFA by one stroke to win ECC Open golf title

By Gavin Keefe

Publication: The Day

Published May 24. 2013 4:00AM

Thompson — High school golf coaches regularly remind their players that every stroke counts.

Well, that certainly was the case in the Eastern Connecticut Conference Open on Thursday at Quinnatisset Country Club.

Killingly nipped Norwich Free Academy by just one stroke, 324-325, to capture its first Open team title in 41 years.

"Unbelievable," Killingly coach Kevin Marcoux said. "Is that amazing? It comes down to one stroke. We talk about that all the time."

Killingly freshman John Aitken earned medalist honors with a 2-over 74.

When the scores were all posted, NFA coach Bob McPhail stood and stared at the results, likely having trouble digesting such an agonizingly thin margin.

One less stray drive, one more accurate putt, and the Wildcats would have shared the team title.

"It's always one stroke," McPhail said. "That's why we tell them every stroke counts. How often that's true."

McPhail can live with the consolation prize because his team had a good day overall. NFA showed a big improvement over what McPhail considered a disappointing score in the recent Wildcat Invitational. The Wildcats also fell short of their own expectations in two important Large Division matches this season to East Lyme, which won the division crown.

"It was a good effort on our part compared to other opportunities when we got beat twice by East Lyme," McPhail said. "In matches that counted, we just didn't play very well. And in our own (Wildcat) tournament, we didn't play very well.

"Today, we played pretty well."

Put NFA senior Nick Kamireddy and junior Justin Bohara on top of McPhail's list and nearly at the top of the competitive field on Thursday. Both golfers fired a 76 to tie for second.

For Kamireddy, it was his final ECC Open, and also his best finish. His previous best also came at Quinnatisset.

As a freshman season, he shot a 75 and came in third.

"Obviously, I wanted to top that," Kamireddy said. "That was my goal. I was thinking about that number throughout the whole day. I wasn't disappointed with a 76. … On average, I've played pretty well here.

"I love this course. I like the layout. It's not too long, but it does have its difficulties, so you do have to hit some good shots."

Kamireddy finished strong with a birdie and par, something that he didn't do last year when he lost his grip on a 1-stroke lead with two holes left, finishing with back-to-back bogeys. He settled for fourth place overall that day.

On Thursday, he registered his two birdies on par 5 holes - the fourth and sixth - sinking short putts on both. His first birdie came on the heels of a double bogey on No. 3.

"Usually, after a double, I'm a little disappointed," Kamireddy said. "I had a different attitude today."

No one could catch Aitken, who credited superb ballstriking for helping him achieve a winning score. He combined with twin brother Drew (79), to power the Redmen to the title. Drew tied Stonington's Chris Bovino for sixth.

"I felt pretty confident," John Aitken said. "I knew what I wanted to do. I just had to do it."

In the team competition, East Lyme, NFA and Killingly came in as the top contenders for the team title.

The Vikings couldn't duplicate their terrific Wildcat performance. They finished well off the winning score, taking sixth with 356 strokes. Junior Connor Callaghan (85) had the low round for East Lyme.

"I don't know the reason why we don't play well in the ECC tournament," East Lyme coach Rudy Bagos said. "We haven't won it since '73."

Mike Martin led Ledyard (344) to third place, finishing 11th with an 83.

g.keefe@theday.com

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