In a normal October, the St. John’s High golf team would be eagerly looking ahead to the postseason. Like last year when the Pioneers, with a stunning team performance, won the Central Mass. Division 1 tournament by a whopping 39 strokes at Kettle Brook Golf Club in Paxton.
Now, because of the pandemic of course, this year’s October is anything but normal, and the Pioneers will not get a chance to defend their CMass title.
But the good news is they’re back competing, packing 10 matches — all against rival Catholic Conference schools — into a small window of fall golf ending during the last week of October and possibly including a season-ending round-robin tournament for bragging rights.
So far, the Pioneers are 3-0 with victories over Catholic Memorial, B.C. High and Xaverian Brothers.
“We’re just excited to compete,” said St. John’s coach Sean Noonan. “It’s a concentrated season, but at least it’s something. With the pandemic, I think the kids feel most normal on the golf course right now. They’re outside and doing something they love to do. They’re just so happy to be out there, and you can just see it on their faces.”
Noonan has nine returning golfers from his 2019 CMass championship team.
“The amazing thing so far is that through three matches I’ve had five different players shoot even par or under par,” said Noonan, whose son, Liam, was the medalist at last year’s CMass tournament with a career-low 3-under-par 69, and is now studying at Georgia Tech.
Leading the way for the Pioneers are top seniors Ethan Whitney, Ray Dennehy and Jacob Mrva, along with junior John Pagano. That foursome all finished within the top-10 at the 2019 Div. 1 CMass championship.
Team captains Whitney and Dennehy both carded 2-under-par scores of 33 at George Wright GC against Catholic Memorial, and Pagano shot 2-under 34 at Wachusett against B.C. High to top the leaderboard.
Other seniors include captain Brendan Maykel, JP Ceryanek, Jack Hester, John O’Brien and Finn Daly.
Besides Pagano, the other juniors are twins Liam and Sean Tenney from Grafton. Sean Tenney was the medalist at Wachusett with a 1-under-35 in the win over Xaverian.
The youngest player on the 12-member varsity team is talented sophomore Matt Quinn.
“This is the deepest team I’ve had in my seven years coaching here,” said Noonan, who noted that the current scoring format for matches is stroke play, the top four scores among a total of six players per team.
“It’s a blessing that we’ve been able to play, and I want to give credit to the Marrone family at Wachusett and Kettle Brook and Bill Plante at Heritage Country Club, for accommodating us for tryouts and matches,” said Noonan, noting that because of the coronavirus, the demand on courses in the area has limited tee times for high school matches.
Added Noonan, “We’ve been lucky. A lot of schools in the Catholic Conference are not getting times on the private courses they have played on in the past. It seems like tee times at most courses are filling up right through 5 on most weekdays.”
On Monday the Pioneers travel to St. John’s Prep and then host Malden Catholic at Wachusett CC on Tuesday.
—Contact Jay Gearan at [email protected]
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