Entering this season, Lincoln-Sudbury golf coach Jon Murch had thought his team might be in a rebuilding year. They were filled with younger players,with several upperclassmen returning from injuries.
But once his golfers, including two first-year players, put up consistently impressive scores in the early stages of the season, he realized he had something special instead. And now, the team sits undefeated after seven matches as it prepares for the Division 1 North sectionals Oct. 23 at the Bass Rocks Golf Club in Gloucester.
“In eight years of coaching, we’ve never had this,” said Murch. “We’re talking eight years, a state title, two sectionals, and five [Dual County League titles], and it’s totally unexpected.”
Pieces fell right into place for Lincoln-Sudbury. The two newcomers came in and consistently carded competitive scores, while the upperclassmen are playing some of the best golf of their lives. On the team of 16, with only six competing in each match, Murch can deploy any of the players at his disposal with no reservation.
Lincoln-Sudbury and its competitors use a scoring system that assigns points to the strokes of all six of its players — in some systems, the worst results are tossed out — meaning that all six must finish well for the common good.
“If you can average over 12 points, you’re pretty much going to be a player who plays every match, because you’re going to have a positive impact on the bottom line,” said Murch. “And these kids are all averaging 15 points; I haven’t [in the past] had the number of kids average the scores that they’re averaging this year.”
Team captain Jack McKeon is one of the returning seniors accustomed to Lincoln-Sudbury’s tradition of success. At season’s start this year, however, he and the other veterans hoped to just piece together some wins to have a shot at competing in the sectionals. Once the team started winning consistently, the goals were broadened.
“Before the season started,” said McKeon, “we were just looking to get to that five- or six-win marker that qualifies you for sectionals; that was our first goal. But after the wins started coming in some of the hard matches, our goal increased to going undefeated and winning” the Dual County League.”
The hot start puts pressure on the golfers, especially the younger ones, to stay focused on each stroke, hole, and match and to never, ever mail in a match or get too caught up in the team’s current record.
For each of the captains, like junior Brendan Frain, the task is to help keep that mindset fresh and to keep the golfers’ minds on what they are working so hard toward.
“Every night we tell them ‘just one more win, one more match,’ ” said Frain. “Day by day we are getting closer to sectionals and states and we’ve got to stay calm, stay ready, and those six guys that get to play have to be fully focused.”
The competition within the team has been a catalyst in the team’s success. The team’s depth means that any of its golfers can card a meaningful score, and it provides some healthy intra-squad pressure.
Trying to beat out 10 other golfers just for the opportunity to compete in a match can be a humbling experience. As a result, those who get to don Lincoln-Sudbury golf polos in a match to represent the school tend not to take the chance lightly.
“These guys have all matured and gotten so much better as a team,” said Frain. “They all understand that even if they don’t play, they still need to try and help the team. And when they do play, they definitely feel more pressure because they know there are guys behind them that can play and want to play. It makes them step up their game.”
The older players feel a different sort of pressure. For McKeon, on his final run at high school golf and in his role as captain, there is an extra jolt to make this season a memorable one.
“This is my fourth year on the team,” said McKeon. “Each of the three years we’ve been good, and this year has that motivation to do even better and go out with a bang, and hopefully go undefeated and make some noise in the sectional and state tournaments.”Logan Mullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ByLoganMullen.