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Senior Jake Bennett earned All-SCC and All-State honors while helping the Hand boys’ golf team claim conference and state titles in the 2019 campaign. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore Matt Doyle was the match medalist at the Division II State Championship when the Tigers won their first state crown in six years this spring. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Michael McKeon was a steady, consistent, and classy senior captain for the Hand boys’ golf squad during the recent spring season. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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Quite often in championship seasons, teams face moments of truth that define their will to win and their dedication to reaching the summit of the sport. That’s exactly what happened to the Hand boys’ golf squad in its quest to claim a pair of championship crowns during the 2019 season.
After losing their season opener to Fairfield Prep, the Tigers notched a record of 14-3 for regular-season play this spring. Hand went on to compete at the SCC Championship at Race Brook Country Club, where Head Coach Jim Holleran’s club took first place by totaling a team score of 311. The Tigers defeated reigning champion Xavier by 19 strokes to post the largest margin of victory in SCC Championship history. The victory gave Hand its third conference title and the team’s first since the 2014 campaign.
Hand went on to compete at the Division II State Championship that took place at Stanley Golf Course on a windy day. The Tigers topped the field by recording a team score of 308, finishing five strokes ahead of Avon to take the title. With this victory, Hand captured its third state crown in program history and the Tigers’ first since they claimed back-to-back Division II crowns in the 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
Coach Holleran said that the Tigers experienced some peaks and valleys throughout the campaign. However, Holleran felt that it all worked out in the end, because they made his squad stronger for when it was time to step into the postseason spotlight.
“This was a terrific group to work with. We lost our first match, but they played better as the year progressed,” said Holleran. “Midyear, we had a little dip and some issues about player focus, but we resolved that and played excellent golf from that point on. The guys enjoyed practicing and trying to get better.”
Chris Bader and Michael McKeon served as the Tigers’ senior captains throughout their climb to the top. Fellow senior Jake Bennett and Joshua Guay also took on leadership roles for Hand this season. No matter their titles, Coach Holleran said that all four of his team’s seniors were instrumental when it came to guiding the Tigers’ underclassmen.
“Joshua was constantly enthusiastic at practice, and Chris was a very positive influence on the team. He gave great effort in practice and encouraged teammates,” Holleran said. “Jake contributed some great scoring and shot a 76 at SCCs. Michael was a steady player and brought good scores throughout the year.”
Throughout all the victories and its pair of championship plaques, Hand remained unfazed by the course on which it was competing. The Tigers were just as dominant on the road as they were on their home greens this season.
“The two titles were very big, but our consistency was great throughout the year. We played great at home and on the road,” said Holleran. “This team could take it on the road and shoot low numbers. We were consistent with no real bad scores the entire year.”
Bennett, junior Aidan Stuart, and sophomores Matt Doyle and Conner Quinn made the All-SCC Team for the Tigers this spring. Doyle and Bennett also earned All-State accolades with Doyle additionally collecting medalist honors at the Division II State Championship with his low score of 70 for his 18-hole round. Doyle went on to finish in a tie for third place at the State Open Championship.
Looking ahead to next season, Coach Holleran feels good about the fact that Hand will be returning a wealth of experience to the links. In reflecting upon the recent campaign, Holleran said that the 2019 edition of the Tigers will forever be etched as one of the best teams in program history.
“We had a terrific year. It meant a lot to see them come together. For example, Matt Doyle started the year with a stress fracture in his foot, but came around and was the medalist at states,” Holleran said. “Conner had an excellent year and was instrumental to our success. Matt was a leader on the course. I expect great things from these guys in the future.”
Hand’s roster additionally featured juniors Justin Earle and Owen Sweet, sophomores Eric Dillner and Will Fitzgerald, and freshman Dave Ginsburg.
From the Sidelines
During the regular season, Hand posted three victories versus Cheshire (149-174, 141-184, and 148-174), two wins against Sheehan (153-195 and 146-191), Morgan (161-203 and 149-196), Amity (157-186 and 148-188), and Branford (157-203 and 154-193), and one victory over Notre Dame-West Haven (149-158), Guilford (146-190), and Xavier (150-153).
Hand lost two contests against Hamden (158-161 and 160-167) and also took a loss versus Fairfield Prep (148-153).
Hand had previously won the Division II state title in 2012, when the Tigers placed ahead of runner-up New Canaan, as well as in 2013, when they again finished ahead of New Canaan. Hand was also the runner-up for the Division III state title in the 2005 campaign.
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