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The Hand boys’ golf team tallied a score of 308 to finish in first place at the Division II State Championship meet that was held at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain on June 3. (Photo courtesy of Craig Semple )
Sophomore Matt Doyle shot a one-under-par 71 to earn medalist honors and help the Tigers’ boys’ golf squad take the title at the Division II State Championship last week. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior Aidan Stuart finished with a round of 78 when the Hand boys’ golf team claimed its third state crown in program history and its first in six years by turning in a first-place performance at the Division II State Championship. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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The Hand boys’ golf team has been proving itself as a dominant force throughout the 2019 season. After posting a regular-season record of 14-3 and then claiming their first SCC title in five years, the Tigers completed the trifecta by winning their first Division II state title since 2013 last week.
Hand competed at the Division II State Championship at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain on a windy day on June 3. On the heels of placing first by a record margin at the SCC Championship, the Tigers topped the field at states by posting a team score of 308 for their 18-hole round on the par-71 course. Hand finished five strokes ahead of Avon, which totaled a score of 313.
With the victory, Hand captured its third state crown in program history and its first since the Tigers won back-to-back Division II championships in the 2012 and 2013 campaigns. Head Coach Jim Holleran’s squad solidified the title when sophomore Matt Doyle came back to the clubhouse after shooting a sensational round of 70. Doyle’s total earned him medalist honors as the low scorer in the tournament.
“It was an honor and an amazing feeling to win states as a team and as an individual. It was amazing for not only me, but also the team,” said Doyle. “On the last hole, I had a five-foot eagle putt with all of the players and coaches watching, and I narrowly missed it, but what was most important was that the team got the victory. I am proud of everyone on the team and our coach for this great season.”
Senior Jake Bennett and junior Aidan Stuart contributed to Hand’s victory by finishing in a tie for seventh place with their respective scores of 78 at states. Senior captain Michael McKeon rounded out the scoring column for the Tigers by turning in a round of 82 to tie for 20th place. Sophomore Conner Quinn also hit the links for Hand and finished in a tie for 29th with a score of 85. Doyle and Bennett earned All-State honors for the Tigers with their stellar scores.
Coach Holleran said that Doyle’s one-under-par score of 70 served as the defining moment of Hand’s victorious performance at the Division II meet.
“Matt played great. I think he was three-under-par at one point. He proved to be the difference and was the highlight of the day,” said Holleran. “I kept telling all the guys to hang in there, because Matt had a strong score.”
Doyle earned birdies on the first, sixth, eighth, and 10th holes on his way to netting medalist recognition. Bennett had a birdie for the 14th hole, McKeon scored a birdie on the 13th green, while Quinn had birdies on holes No. 15 and 18.
After running into some trouble early, Bennett turned things around on the back nine in order to help the Tigers bring home the gold.
“The first nine holes were a shock to me, and it wasn’t the wind that was bothering me, but my swing and club. I needed to step it up on the back nine for my team, and that’s what I did and couldn’t be happier,” Bennett said. “I am just so happy we got the win and so proud of my teammates for sticking it out and staying focused.”
Coach Holleran felt proud of his club for playing well in the windy conditions, especially when the title was still up for grabs entering the latter half of the afternoon.
“The guys really stepped up, and it was tough with the wind at Stanley,” Holleran said. “Everybody really rallied over the back nine and played really good golf. It was a great showing.”
In reflecting upon his team’s season, Holleran couldn’t have asked for anything more out of the Tigers this year. Holleran knows that the depth in Hand’s lineup enabled the Tigers to make 2019 a double-banner campaign in Madison.
“They are good and confident golfers that don’t feel too much pressure. They played great golf all year long. They rose to the occasion at states,” Holleran said. “You never know what can happen in one day, but I felt we had a good chance going in. Someone stepped up when we needed it all season long.”
Hand’s roster additionally features senior captain Chris Bader, fellow senior Joshua Gray, juniors Justin Earle and Owen Sweet, sophomores Eric Dillner and Will Fitzgerald, and freshman Dave Ginsburg.
Following the Division II State Championship, Doyle represented Hand when he competed at the State Open Championship that was held at the Black Hall Club in Old Lyme on June 8. Doyle finished in a tie for third place at the Open by posting a total of 77. Doyle finished just two strokes behind the leader Alex Gu from Darien, who finished with a score of 75.
From the Sidelines
Following Hand and Avon in first and second place, respectively, the top-10 standings at the Division II State Championship included Berlin (318), Farmington (328), Notre Dame-West Haven (331), East Lyme (341), E.O. Smith (342), Guilford (348), Masuk (348), and Wethersfield (349).
During the regular season, Hand posted three victories versus Cheshire (149-174, 141-184, and 148-174); two wins against Sheehan (153-195 and 146-191), Morgan (161-203 and 149-196), Amity (157-186 and 148-188), and Branford (157-203 and 154-193); and one victory over Notre Dame-West Haven (149-158), Guilford (146-190), and Xavier (150-153). Hand lost two contests against to Hamden (158-161 and 160-167) and also took a loss versus Fairfield Prep (148-153).
The Tigers had previously won the Division II state title in 2012, when they shot a 313 to place ahead of runner-up New Canaan; as well as in 2013, when they finished ahead of New Canaan by posting a team score of 299. Hand was also the runner-up for the Division III state title in the 2005 campaign.
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