Defending Middlesex League golf champion Melrose won’t be able to defend its title this year, but the Red Raiders (4-0) are off to a strong start, thanks in part to contributions from an unlikely source.
Senior Brendan Fennell normally plays quarterback and led Melrose to the Division 4 Super Bowl title last year. But with football canceled for the fall, Fennell decided to try out for the golf team. He slid into the No. 3 spot in the lineup and is hoping to make the most of it.
“I’m taking advantage of the four seasons the MIAA has put in place to go out there and be competitive,” Fennell said. “We’ve got a great group of seniors on this team. I just try to do my thing and let them lead. I lead when I can, but I let them do their thing because they’ve been here for a long time.”
Melrose coach Rick McDermod heard about Fennell from the staff at Mount Hood Municipal Golf Course, where Fennell works during the summer, and was hoping to persuade him to play golf. But McDermod didn’t even need to make a recruiting pitch.
“I reached out to him one day up at the golf course and he told me, ‘Coach, I’ve already signed up,’ ” McDermod said. “And I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s perfect.’ ”
Fennell isn’t the only newcomer, as senior Charlie Haggerty also made the transition from football to golf. Haggerty, who is also a member of the Melrose hockey team, always had golf in the back of his mind.
“I grew up down the street from Mount Hood,” Haggerty said. “Would always go up there and play growing up. So once football got canceled, it was nice to get to try out.”
Haggerty is making the most of the opportunity as he shot a career-low, 2-under-par 34 Tuesday in the Red Raiders' win over Stoneham.
“I play better when there’s more pressure on me,” he said. “I’m more focused. I guess I just found my swing at the right time.”
Playing 'an escape’
Lincoln-Sudbury (Division 1) and Winchester (Division 3) will not get the chance to defend their state titles this fall, but players and coaches from both teams are grateful for the opportunity to compete.
“At least we’re able to have a regular season, because some teams don’t get to at all,” Winchester senior Owen Egan said. “Golf has certainly been an escape. When [golf courses] opened up, that was just about the only thing I was able to do outside my house. So you just put the phone away for a while and play with your friends.”
The two state champs will still get to compete on a big stage, as they were invited to the NHSGA High School Golf National Invitational in Pinehurst, N.C. The event was originally scheduled for June, but all the teams who received invitations to the 2020 event will be invited back.
The North Reading and Pentucket boys' teams matched up last week, but the best players on the course were both girls.
Pentucket junior Ava Spencer and North Reading freshman Isabel Brozena tied for medalist honors in the Hornets' 142-106 win at Hillview Golf Course. The players, who were paired together, each made par on the ninth hole to finish at 1-over 37.
Brozena, the first girl on the North Reading roster in 10 years, also had 35 points and finished as medalist in a win over Lynnfield on Oct. 1.
Spencer and Brozena aren’t the only standout girls competing this fall. Winchester senior Christine Mandile carded a 1-over 37 at Winchester Country Club and finished as the medalist in the Sachems' win over Reading Wednesday. Mandile is committed to play golf at the University of Richmond.
Prep’s strong start
St. John’s Prep, one of the state’s most consistently successful programs for more than a decade, is looking to finish unbeaten for the third time in 13 seasons. Sophomore Aidan LeBlanc leads the charge for the 5-0 Eagles. LeBlanc finished at 1 under after playing just five holes in the Prep’s rain-shortened win over St. John’s Shrewsbury on Wednesday. It was his third consecutive under-par score and he has broken 40 in all five matches this season. He has a team-low scoring average of 36.32 . . . Plymouth South’s Nolan Skaggs has picked up right where he left off. The senior captain has finished as the medalist in every match this season, including a 1-over 37 at Atlantic Country Club in the Panthers' loss to Scituate Thursday.
Players to watch
▪ Weston Jones, Lincoln-Sudbury — The defending Division 1 state champion will play at Rutgers next fall.
▪ Trevor Lopez, Winchester — The defending Division 2 state champion will play at UConn.
▪ Joey Lenane, Xaverian — Finished T5 in the Division 1 state championship last season as a sophomore and won the US Challenge Cup Gately Cup at Connecticut National in August.
▪ Liam Gill, Wayland — The senior just announced his commitment to play at Seattle University.
▪ Jacob Finard, Weston — The senior finished T4 at the Division 4 state championship last year and has committed to play at Georgetown.
▪ Eric Boulger, Xaverian — Finished in the top 10 at the Division 1 state championship last year and will join older brother Jack on the golf team at UConn next fall.
▪ Colby Sanville, Wellesley — He was a Bay State Conference All-Star last year and is committed to play at Trinity College next fall.
▪ Aidan Emmerich, St. Mary’s — Last year’s Catholic Central League co-MVP as a sophomore shot 72 to qualify for the Mass. Amateur in June.
▪ Josh Lavallee, Central Catholic. The two-time defending Division 2 North champion lost just five matches as a junior.
▪ Will Campbell, Nauset. Shot 73 to qualify for the Mass. Amateur in June and was a Cape & Islands All-Star last season.