A Catholic Conference team has won five of the last six MIAA Division 1 boys’ golf championships. In the past two seasons, nine players from the conference have earned Globe All-Scholastic honors.
What is the path to success, tee to green? A challenging regular-season slate against conference rivals that prepares one and all for the postseason in October.
Ask BC High coach Chris Hayes, whose squad started the 2022 season 0-6, rallied with six straight wins entering the postseason, and then walked off the 18th green at Renaissance Golf Club in Haverhill with the Division 1 championship, a five-stroke victory over conference rival Xaverian.
When the Eagles arrived at the North qualifier at The Meadow in Peabody, other coaches took note of their path. “They told me, ‘Man, the hardest part for you guys is getting through your conference,’” recalled Hayes, now in his 13th season.
“Week in, week out, we can’t take a day off. Every match in our conference is a challenge,” he said. “We’re made for the state tournament.”
One of the biggest reasons for the Catholic Conference’s strength is, simply, the private school dynamic.
“Just because of who we are, we can draw from a wider area, so we can develop the depth you need to play in the tournament,” Hayes said. “Your No. 1 or 2, they’re the guys that could lose the tournament for you if they have an off day. The guy who wins it is your No. 5.”
St. John’s Prep coach Brian Jasiak (’07) experienced the conference first as an athlete, on the baseball team, and now as a coach.
“[The Catholic Conference] is a better simulation of what a [postseason] tournament is,” said Jasiak, who directed the Eagles to the Division 1 state title in 2021 after a 10-3 regular season.
“The pressure of knowing that you have to be at your best, because the opposing team is going to be at their best, means you have to bring it.”
He also credits the game’s continued rise in popularity as a core reason for the conference’s depth and strength.
“We had 60 or 70 kids come to tryouts [this year]. Five years ago, we might have had 20.”
Prep senior captain Terry Manning credits a “brotherhood” for the show of power.
“If you look at all of the schools in the Catholic Conference, where we are at school helps us build chemistry as a team, and that’s one of the biggest components to look at,” he said.
He noted that the 2021 championship squad was close on and off the course, a major factor in raising a championship trophy at season’s end.
Veer Bhasin, who has co-captained the conference’s newest member, St. John’s Shrewsbury, to a 7-0 start, said, “Iron sharpens iron.”
“At a lot of other schools, golf is seen as a secondary sport for hockey kids, baseball kids, whatever they do,” he said. “For us, it’s our main sport . . . When we play conference matches, we really have to grind to get those wins.”
In 2019, St. John’s Shrewsbury coach Sean Noonan watched his son, Liam, win the Central title as the Pioneers rolled to a 39-stroke victory in the qualifier.
“The guys know once we start trying out in August, ‘Hey, we’re playing the best in the state,’” Noonan said. “We’re getting huge contributions all the way down, and I feel confident putting any one of my players into a high-leverage match.”
Gerry Lambert has guided Xaverian to state championships in 2014, 2016, and 2018.
“Great golfers choose to come to [the Catholic Conference]. It’s not just their skill,” Lambert said. “They work at it, they’re involved in tournaments year-round, so they come back in midseason mode. They know they need to be ready to roll, because we play schools like St. John’s Shrewsbury, BC High, and St. John’s Prep twice a year.”
Lambert, who has also led the Xaverian baseball team to three state championships, lauded the work of his coaching brethren in the conference. “[Some of them] have forgotten more about golf than I’ll ever know,” he said with a chuckle.
Each team plays every conference member twice, one home, one away. There are nonleague matches too, but Xaverian senior captain Sean Resnick said that the conference matches are the true challenge.
“It’s definitely the most competitive league,” Resnick said. “When you play some nonleague games, a lot of the guys are playing golf as another sport to play and have fun, but in the Catholic Conference, we want to win.”
▪ In Wednesday’s Hockomock League match between rivals Franklin and Mansfield at Norton CC, the host Hornets (6-2) dealt Franklin (4-1) its first loss, 154-170, with Nate McClean taking medalist honors with a 37.
“Any time you face a really good team and beat them, it’s a huge confidence booster,” said Mansfield coach Chris Hall.
“The guys set the tone early . . . we’ve been playing on the road quite a bit this year so to come home and beat a couple great teams this week was huge for us.”
Mansfield started the season 1-2, including a 159-165 setback to Franklin in the opener. The Hornets enter Tuesday’s match against Foxborough with five straight wins.
▪ After rattling off three straight Bay State Conference victories, Wellesley is focused on Sunday’s Cape Cod National High School Invitational. The Raiders are the defending team champion.
“The boys are fired up after this week,” said Wellesley coach Ken Bateman. “This weekend I just asked them to make sure their putting is in order. The Cape Cod National greens are no joke.”
After the trip to the Cape, the Raiders (6-1) have four matches lined up this week: Framingham, Natick, Newton North, and Weymouth.
▪ Shawsheen (9-0) is cruising in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference. Senior Matt Tramonte sets the pace for coach Tom Struthers, with Max Carpenter and Colin Lawson supplying steady play . . . Following the lead of senior captain Jack Carstensen, St. John Paul II is 7-0 after a 244-291 Cape & Islands League win over Sturgis West . . . Scituate started 7-0 before a 240-250 defeat to Patriot League rival Marshfield at Green Harbor GC.
Correspondent Khalin Kapoor contributed to this story.