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DiPetrillo right on course with promising swing

Had Tiger Woods nailed the same shot that 16-year-old Sophie DiPetrillo sank on the first hole at TPC Boston in Norton last September, he would have matched Rory McIlroy’s score and forced a playoff to decide the winner of the 2012 Deutsche Bank Championship and the $1.44 million that came with it.

Not more than a month after the PGA tournament finished up, DiPetrillo, a sophomore at Dover-Sherborn High, was playing the course on a cold, wet day in the middle of the high school golf season.

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Her first shot on the par-four first hole landed about 150 yards from the green. Her next shot landed in the hole.

“You could hear her,” recalled D-S coach Jon Kirby.

Kirby couldn’t describe the sound that DiPetrillo made, but said: “That was unusual. She’s very stoic. That was a thrill for her. The Deutsche Bank wasn’t too far away. And a month later she canned it on the same hole the pros are playing.”

With talent oozing out of every club she swings, DiPetrillo was still fixing her game and finding a consistent stroke during the fall season. She saved room for an encore this spring.

With an improving short game and a drive that always seems to end up in the fairway — with distance that can top out around 295 yards — DiPetrillo ran away with the state championship in early June, shattering the field with a 3-over-par 74 round.

It runs in the family

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Of the 26 golfers who participated, only six 9-hole scores under 40 were recorded. She had two of them, shooting a 38 on the front nine and a 36 on the back.

“For a little girl — she’s not physically bigger than the other kids — her swing is so technically right that she hits the ball past where most of her competitors are hitting,” Kirby said of the 5-foot-7 DiPetrillo. “But you know if you don’t have a good short game or a good putter, it doesn’t matter how close you get. She’s the whole package. The whole deal, absolutely.

“And she works hard at it.”

And then there’s DiPetrillo’s twin sister, Chloe.

“Her short game is better than mine,” Sophie said.

If only their grandfather were alive to see it.

Haig Arpiarian, a Medford High graduate, was a 27-year member at Shaker Farms Country Club in Westfield. He could’ve gone pro, his grandkids proudly announce. They never knew him; he died in 1992, before they were born. But the girls have heard stories, many from strangers they meet on the course.

The Arpiarian name used to be synonymous with golf. Trying to dig up those stories, though, takes work.

Ken Stawasz, currently the head golf pro at Shaker Farms, has never heard of Haig Arpiarian.

“I’ve only been here one year,” he said. “Try Dave DiRico’s shop.”

A man answers the phone at DiRico’s Golf Shop in West Springfield. The name is unfamiliar.

“Try Dave’s brother, Tommy,” the man said. “He knows everything about golf around here. If he doesn’t know him, nobody does.”

Tommy DiRico had the voice of a man who has been waiting for this call.

“Haig?” he said. “Of course I knew Haig. We were very close.”

DiRico, 65, has worked at Chicopee Country Club for 18 years, the last three as director of golf. He met Arpiarian 38 years ago and the two developed a special friendship. They played golf together for years, even traveled to Bermuda for a pro-am. He confirms the stories: Arpiarian was a top-notch golfer.

Earlier this June, DiRico’s club hosted the high school golf state championship. He noticed a young girl with a near-perfect swing.

Then he noticed Tanya Arpiarian, one of Haig’s five daughters.

“I saw her, recognized her right away, and gave a nice big hug and a nice big hello,” DiRico said. “Then I followed her daughter [Sophie] around to watch her play. She’s an excellent player. She has a beautiful golf swing. And for being a sophomore in high school, I think she’s only scratching the surface with her talent as far as taking it to another level.”

Sophie never met her grandfather, but apparently she plays just like him. Her coach calls her a student of the game. DiRico said there was no better student than Haig Arpiarian.

“When he played his round of golf, he used to study the course,” DiRico said. “He was one of the first players I played with who would go out and measure yardages. That was before the GPS and all the new technology we have today. He was a little ahead of his time.”

So, too, are his granddaughters.

Tanya swore she would make her kids try the game at age 6. While Tanya wasn’t quite as talented, she shared the same passion for golf as her father. In his honor, her kids would learn it.

Once they learned it, she figured, they could make the decision themselves to keep playing or not.

“They said, ‘No, we want to keep going,’ ” she said.

“We still continued because we loved it,” Chloe said. “The more we play and more we improve, it makes us feel we’re doing something for our family. It makes my grandma [Rose] so happy to see. She knows her husband would’ve wanted it.”

“I know Haig, he would’ve mentored his grandkids,” DiRico said. “That’s just the type of person he was.”

Sophie, who will transfer to Buckingham, Browne & Nichols this fall, won a state title and Player of the Year honors from the Globe this spring. But there are days that Chloe can be even better.

Chloe out-shot Sophie during the Tri-Valley League tournament last fall, shooting 76 to post her first round under 80.

After turning in her scorecard, it was announced that she had finished in third place. She was awarded a trophy and was instantly embarrassed by a loud noise.

“We have this thing in our family,” Chloe said. “It’s a squeal and it’s so high-pitched.”

It was Sophie. It was a noise not too different from the one she made when sinking the 150-yard shot at TPC.

Golf seems to make everyone in this family happy.

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