After the departure of many talented golfers, junior Drew Semons of Danvers has risen out of relative obscurity to lead St. John’s Prep to an 9-2 record in a transition year. Seniors Cole English and Trent Han have stepped up as leaders, but Semons has been the team’s most reliable performer through the first half of the season.
“He’s been very consistent this year,” said English, a cocaptain from Merrimac. “He’s definitely been our most consistent guy. He’s been playing really strong this year; he’s definitely had a huge step up from last year.”
St. John’s posted a 15-1 record last year en route to a Catholic Conference title and a Division 1 North championship, but several seniors who always posted the team’s lowest scores have moved on to college. Last year’s Division 1 golfer of the year Chris Francoeur is gone, along with all-scholastic honorees Mark Turner and Griffin Chenard.
After Semons accomplished his goal of making the varsity team as a sophomore, he set out to become the best golfer he could be. He knew how crowded it would be at the top that year, and he challenged himself to get right up there with his best teammates to help win matches.
“I knew they would produce good scores, but I also wanted to get into the top six [who] count every match,” said Semons. “I wanted to be able to do something for the team.”
This year, Semons has gone from fighting for one of those top spots to being the only guy to shoot in the top four week in and week out. English has been pretty solid, and Han has rebounded after a rough start.
“It’s been a little tough, especially losing so many talented players,” said English. “Last year, we knew five guys right off the bat were coming in at relatively the same number every day, but this year it’s definitely a little different.”
That solid top five has been replaced by a pattern of different golfers posting low scores each match to lead the team to victory, which second-year coach Joseph Rocha said reflects both the depth of the team but also its inexperience and inconsistency. The situation isn’t ideal, but it has given every golfer on the team an opportunity to contribute.
“Each match we have an alternate that steps up and can shoot under par,” said Han, the cocaptain from Lynnfield. “That shows a lot about our team and how low each man can go.”
Semons is the one player who has shot low scores consistently all season. He tries not to think about anything except his next shot, and he credits that approach for his sustained success this year.
“I like to go out with the same mental attitude and just play my game, and stay in my groove,” said Semons.
“Even when he has off days and he claims he hit the ball pretty poorly, his misses aren’t that bad,” said Han, who sees Semons’ simple swing as a key to success. “The game of golf is not really about how good your good shots are, it’s more about how good your bad shots are.”
The wide-open nature of the team this year has fostered competition between teammates up and down the lineup.
“A lot of us are competing for the top spot, and the guys at the bottom of the lineup are competing for a spot to stay on the team each week,” said Semons.
The competition is quite literally that, as the team carries 10 players, but only eight can play in each match. Coach Rocha holds nine-hole rounds in practice, and the bottom four players fight for the last two spots on the active roster that week. Next year, one of those players might make a jump similar to that of Semons.
“The kids come to St. John’s and they play with other excellent players,” said Rocha. “They push each other to be better. It’s fun to watch.”
The players seem to be enjoying the friendly competition, and benefiting from it,. Semons, it seems, has given each of his teammates a benchmark to shoot for.
“If you think, ‘oh, I need to beat my teammate Drew today,’ it pushes you, it makes you try to shoot a lower score,” said English. “You can have that mind-set mentally and try to beat your teammates, but at the end when it’s all over, you’ve got to come together and see how we did against the other team.”
“We all want each other to do well, but there’s definitely competition amongst the team,” said Semons. “Everyone wants to be on top, of course.”
Right now Semons is that top dog, providing the consistency that his team has otherwise struggled to find. He’s happy about it, but as always, he’s on to the next shot.
“I just feel like whatever I’ve done so far needs to continue,” said Semons. “It definitely feels good to be on top right now, and I hope I can keep it up.”
Tom Petrini can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.