It’s pretty common for at least one of our golfers to advance out of Monsignor Martin play to the State Catholic Championships. The top 15 or so golfers move on to James Baird State Park near Poughkeepsie in May of each year and at least one of our guys usually has the game to make it. What made 2013 so memorable was that all six of our starters played well enough in the qualifier to move on. One of the fellows had an exam conflict, so we headed east with five guys and two coaches.
The routine is to arrive a day ahead and play a practice round. Something about eastern New York having better state park courses than western New York. Beaver Island is about a C on the grading scale. I’m told that Green Lakes near Syracuse is a B and James Baird is definitely a B. I’d give Bethpage Red an A and the Black course (more on that later) an A+. Oh well, poor Beaver. Anyway, James Baird is not the kind of place you can just kick it around (as I’d been led to believe) and post a 75. I counted no fewer than fifteen holes where danger lurked, including a few alleys on the back nine where drive is just plain stupid. We forbid our fellows from extracting the big stick on those tee boxes. It paid off.
By the end of the round, one of our fellows had finished one stroke off the medal. His performance was not exactly a surprise. He analyzes a golf course as a surgeon does with a patient. His movement around the course is methodical and calculated. He loves his golf, mind you, but understands its value to him. With that score, Gregory moved on to the Federation Championships (more on that later, too.)
The remaining four fellows returned from far and near with their scores. As expected, the one freshman to qualify had faced a bit more challenge than he anticipated. The experience was a positive one for him. Not so happy were the two seniors that had played as co-number one for two years. Neither one had found his game that day and both shot a good five strokes higher than anticipated. Their seasons were finished and there was no consolation for them.
The final golfer scripted a story you’d need an editor and four loony writers to invent. Here’s the bullet list:
-golfer makes team as sophomore;
-golfer plays poorly as sophomore;
-golfer gets cut as junior;
-golfer tries out on whim as senior;
-golfer makes team as senior;
-golfer breaks into starting line-up late in season;
-golfer shoots 73 at All-Catholics and moves on;
And that day, Jake shot 77 at James Baird State Park, won a playoff for the fourth of six slots, and represented our team as the second qualifier to State Feds.
The State Federation Championship brings twenty-four golfers together for a one-day shoot-out. Four teams of six golfers, representing state public schools, NYC public schools, state independent schools and state catholic schools divisions make the journey of a young lifetime to fabled Bethpage State Park to play 18 holes from the professional tees of the Black course. It’s a bit intimidating for the faint of heart.
Things didn’t start so well. We journeyed separately to Long Island and arrived to find the golf courses of Bethpage under water. There was concern that the tournament would not go off the next day. The practice round was scratched. The boys hit shots on the practice range and we met for lunch to devise a battle plan. Since I had played the course, I could give them an idea of how to get around. I knew that nothing I could relate would ever suitably prepare them for their first tour of the Black.
The next day was anti-climactic. Both lads shot a full ten strokes higher than they had anticipated and departed with respect for both the Black and the importance of a practice round. I reminded them that they had achieved a height that our lads from previous years had never before reached. That bar they mention? It was raised.