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Lexington High senior stays on course

For all he knew, Jeffrey Lang was playing golf with one hand.

His doctor wasn’t exactly sure how swinging a club upwards of 100 miles per hour would affect Lang’s right wrist, which he had shattered in an ugly accident on a longboard (an oversized skateboard) just two months earlier, so Lang figured he’d play anyway.

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With the Division 1 North sectional on the line for his Lexington High golf team last fall, Lang ditched his driver in attempt to avoid the violent torque that swinging it would create on his still-feeble wrist, and played 18 holes without his favorite club.

He swung his 3-wood every now and then — only when he felt the extra distance it provided was absolutely necessary — but primarily used his irons, careful to avoid hitting the ground with enough force to cause a jolt of pain in his wrist.

Lang finished his round in Beverly with a cautious 77, just two strokes away from qualifying for the state final and three strokes from lifting the entire Lexington team into qualification range.

But playing at half-capacity was still better than watching from the cart for a teenager who needed more than a wobbly wrist to keep him off the golf course.

“It was rough for him the whole season,” said his younger brother, Jack Lang, a Lexington freshman last year who qualified for the final with a 75 in one of the few times throughout their lives when the protégé was in better form than the mentor. “He went to all the matches and cheered us on. But he couldn’t play until a week before the sectional.”

‘He’s a thoughtful golfer. He could play a raw power game, but he prefers to play the course.’

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Golf has been Jeffrey Lang’s favorite hobby since he was 4 years old, when he would sneak onto the 14th hole of the golf course behind his grandfather’s home in South Carolina and putt in the dark.

By age 11, Lang had already tasted success in US Kids Golf competitions, eventually earning back-to-back invitations to Scotland to compete in an international tournament.

Ever since his freshman year at Lexington, Lang has befuddled the high school golf scene with his lanky frame and the disproportionate length of his drives.

And as he prepares to wrap up his senior season, at 6-foot-5 and 175 pounds he’ll be among the tallest of competitors in Monday’s Division 1 state final at Norton Country Club. He earned the berth with a 69 — the top score — at last month’s North sectional at Bradford Country Club.

He tops out at around 290 yards off the tee, a perplexing figure for someone of his build. But instead of relying on his power, Lang has made his name with careful calculations and a disdain for losing golf balls.

“He’s a thoughtful golfer,” said longtime Lexington coach Rick Thibeault . “He could play a raw power game, but he prefers to play the course. Some people say you can drive that green, but he’ll say, ‘What are the odds of making a bad shot?’

“He’s going to take the risk when the reward is worth it. He won’t take the risk just to do it. There are kids who play a couple shots just because they want to say they made that shot,’’ Thibeault noted. “Jeffrey is an athlete that plays an intelligent game of golf.”

Lang spent last winter honing his swing (he even stopped playing basketball, a first for him), but it was the development of his mental game that turned him into a top competitor.

“Your ideal performance state is not too intense, but focused,” Lang said. “And focused, but calm. You need to be very comfortable with your shot before you go into it.”

From playing with his older brother, Jack has been able to steal a few of Jeffrey’s tricks.

“I’ve learned a lot from him,” Jack said. “It used to be he would play smart, I would play aggressive and stupid. I would always lose by a huge margin and I was wondering why. I realized he was playing smarter than I was. He thinks his way around the course really well. He beats everyone in that regard.”

Jeffrey is lined up to continue golfing next year at Dartmouth College, where he has verbally committed to a program that has been on the rise since Peter Williamson made the transition from Hanover, N.H., standout to the seventh-ranked world amateur golfer this summer.

At 6-foot-4 and 170 pounds, Williamson, who graduated from Dartmouth in the spring, represents a model for Lang, as a Northeast-bred player with a dynamite short game who entered college without sky-high expectations.

Lang hopes to win the individual state title Monday, of course. His coach believes he has a very good shot at it. Regardless, there’s still plenty of hope for the determined golfer with a solid approach.

“If you find a slot or click in your game, success can happen for anyone,” Lang said. “The next four years I’m trying to give myself the best chance for that to happen.”

Needham’s Shuman puts hopes in putter

Needham High junior Jake Shuman could also make a splash in Monday’s Division 1 final, especially if he can catch some luck with his new belly putter.

Shuman, who shot a 70 to post the best score at the Division 1 South sectional at Brookmeadow Country Club, and was a Globe All-Scholastic as a freshman in 2010, switched to the belly putter last year.

“He’s been using that and trying to improve,” said Needham coach Adam Cole . “I think he’s comfortable with it. When he misses, he doesn’t miss by much.”

Cole wonders, though, how long Shuman and others will be able to use the long putters, with a ruling from the US Golf Association on their status expected at the end of this year.

Brookline lines up bid for Cinderella story

The Brookline High golf team underachieved this fall with an 11-5 record, according to coach BillCamelio , but qualified for the Division 1 state final by taking second in the South sectional thanks to strong performances by seniors Jack Corcoran , Jacob Dana, and Jim Wronoski , who have all had standout seasons.

While Camelio said it will take a “perfect storm” for Brookline to win it all on Monday (as his team did in 2010), he echoed the sentiment of many public school golf coaches when he said third place (behind Catholic powerhouses St. John’s Prep and Boston College High) would still be considered a win.

“I tell the kids that in the beginning of the season,” the coach said. “Third through sixth is like winning it. Even to qualify — that’s huge.”

Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at jasonmastrodonato@yahoo.com.
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