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05/01/2022 12:00 AM

North Haven Golf Features a Young and Hungry Club

Freshman Will Sagnella is off to a great start with the North Haven boys’ golf squad, earning co-medalist honors in both of the Nighthawks’ matches last week. File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier

While the North Haven boys’ golf team lacks experience, Head Coach Kevin St. Pierre feels that the Nighthawks more than make up for it with the passion they display on the course. As his team looks to qualify for the Division I State Championship, Coach St. Pierre said that everyone on the Nighthawks’ roster is working together and challenging each other to become the best golfers they can be this season.

The Nighthawks played matches Branford and East Haven last week, taking defeats in both contests. North Haven lost to Branford by the score of 166-195 in a road match at Pine Orchard Country Club on April 25 and then took a 191-199 home loss against East Haven at Tradition Golf Club on April 27. North Haven now has a record of 1-4 on the year.

Freshman Will Sagnella finished in a three-way tie for medalist honors by shooting a low score of 39 when the Nighthawks faced Branford. Sophomore captain Kevin Lawlor was next in line for North Haven by posting a career-low total of 44. Sophomore Chris Labanara shot a 55, while fellow sophomore Dinny LaDore finished with a 57 for the Nighthawks, whose team score of 195 marked their second-best of the season.

Sagnella finished with a score of 46 to earn co-medalist distinction in the meet with East Haven. Labanara shot a 49, Lawlor carded a 52, senior captain Brady Connolly also shot a 52, and LaDore scored a 54 for North Haven.

Despite the two losses, Coach St. Pierre was impressed with the Nighthawks’ performance during past week, calling it was one of the best showings that he’s seen from his team to date.

“These past two matches, in my opinion, were the best so far,” St. Pierre said. “I can only see them getting better as we move on.”

North Haven features three captains at three different grade levels this year. Connolly is a senior captain, Christian Basmadjian is a junior captain, and Lawlor serves as a sophomore captain for the Nighthawks. Coach St. Pierre wanted everyone in the program to know that they can be leaders, regardless of what grade they’re in. St. Pierre feels that all three of his captains exemplify what it means to represent the North Haven golf team.

“All of them have been with the program since they were freshmen. All three play different styles and different intensities, but they show the other guys when we play other teams what it means to be a North Haven golfer,” said St. Pierre. “They all truly show what captainship means. They’re big-time leaders, and they all work well together.”

The Nighthawks’ lineup typically changes from match to match. When North Haven faced East Haven, the team’s lineup consisted of Sagnella, Lawlor, Labanara, LaDore, and Connelly in the No. 1 through 5 spots, respectively. Still, Coach St. Pierre actively promotes competition amongst his athletes.

St. Pierre has incorporated a system where one player can challenge another player for their spot in the lineup. Both players go head-to-head for nine holes, and whoever has the lowest score will get the spot. North Haven’s coach wants everyone on his roster to gain experience, and he feels that this type of competition is helping them reach their potential.

Even with all of the competition among North Haven’s golfers, Coach St. Pierre feels pleased to see the Nighthawks growing together as a team. St. Pierre said that his athletes are always working with each other to figure out the right type of shot to hit. With so much youth in the program, St. Pierre said that having strong chemistry has been a big-time benefit for his club.

“They work together on the course. I see everyone working to read the green and working out each shot together, helping each other get through it,” St. Pierre said. “I can’t be in every spot and every hole. It’s great to see that they’re working together perfectly. They’re doing it themselves. They’re taking control. They’re really becoming a team.”

While the spots in the lineup may rotate, one thing that appears to be a constant for North Haven going forward is having Sagnella in the No. 1 hole. The freshman started in the No. 3 spot in North Haven’s first two matches, but Sagnella quickly demonstrated that he was primed for a bigger role and ready to lead the team on the links.

“He takes the extra step. He puts the extra time in on his own all the time. Last season, when he was an 8th-grader, I would see him at the course,” said St. Pierre of Sagnella. “Now that he’s in the program, I purposely started him at the 3 spot. I wanted him to get used to the competition level. He grew right into it. He said, ‘I’m ready,’ and took that 1 spot. I don’t see him looking back. Only forward.”

Sagnella is one of several underclassmen in North Haven’s lineup, but Coach St. Pierre views the Nighthawks’ youth as a good thing. St. Pierre knows that his up-and-coming golfers will benefit from the experience they gain this year and be set up well for success when they become the veteran players on the squad.

“We are very, very young. The majority of our lineups will be three sophomores, a freshman, and a junior. It’s pretty crazy going against some teams that are coming in with 18 year-old seniors,” St. Pierre said. “It’s tough, but I tell them, ‘Two years from now, you’re going to be those upperclassmen. You might go against a program that’s young like ours. You’re going to remember it.’”

There will be 17 teams that qualify for the Division I State Championship this season, and Coach St. Pierre wants North Haven to be one of those teams. St. Pierre believes that if his athletes keep “pushing the way they’re pushing and playing the way they’re playing,” the Nighthawks will have a good chance of reaching the postseason.

St. Pierre, who was hired by North Haven at the start of the 2019 campaign, said that both he and his players understand that golf is a mental game. They realize that there’s much more that goes into to making the cut than choosing which iron you’re going to use. And that’s where the Nighthawks stand out for St. Pierre. He said that the North Haven boys’ golf program exudes passion for the game and that this passion will ultimately guide the Nighthawks to new heights.

“If you wanted to see what North Haven golf looks like, you would see passion. Instantly, when they get to the course, they are on the range or on the putting green before we tee off. It wasn’t always like that,” said St. Pierre. “The upperclassmen are all-in and want to improve their skills. It has become contagious. They take it upon themselves to get better and to improve and challenge others.”

The North Haven boys’ team’s golf roster features senior captain Brady Connolly; seniors Casey Lorusso and Bryan Parker; junior captain Christian Basmadjian; sophomore captain Kevin Lawlor; sophomores Dinny LaDore, Chris Labanara and Nicholas Piscatelli; and freshmen Alessio Fraschilla and Will Sagnella.

Sophomore Chris Labanara is part of a pack of young golfers on a North Haven team that’s competing with plenty of passion this year. File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier
Junior Christian Basmadjian is one of three captains who is leading the Nighthawks on the links during the 2022 campaign.File photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Courier