The GL Varsity Golf team, led by Coach Sharon Leahy, had one of their best seasons ever last year with a ten game win streak during the regular season, as well as finishing second place in the North Jersey Section 2 Group 2 State tournament. Last year's senior, Ryan Davis, now playing on a golf scholarship at Penn State, finished in first place, and Ed Sot finished in a tie for 4th, with the team qualifying for the highly sought after invitation to the Tournament of Champions. But again, that was last year, and the graduation of Davis has left some big shoes to fill, but the Highlanders are starting to step confidently into those shoes.
The Highlanders have a tough schedule this year, facing two of the state's top 10 teams. The luck of the draw was not in GL's favor to start the 2017 season as their first match was against the number four ranked team in NJ, the golf powerhouse of Oratory Prep. While GL fought hard in the season opener it was just not enough to match the talented Oratory team. GL lost by a score of 163-178. GL top scorers were led by senior Matt Rice, with an opening round of 40, and junior Ed Sot with a 43.
The next match was against a tough Scotch Plains-Fanwood team. While lowering their overall score from the previous game, it was still not enough for GL to catch SPF, and SPF won by an 11 point margin of 159-170. James Bloom from SPF led his team with a score of 37 and teammate Jimmy Bagdonas shot 39. GL top scorers were not far behind with Sot scoring 40 and Quinn Haddad 41. Rounding out the GL team was Rice and Brent Faecher with scores of 44 and 45 respectively.
After a two week break due to rainouts and Spring recess, the Highlanders returned to the links with a sense of urgency as they were now in the hole to start their season with a record of 0-2. Their next rival was Roselle Park, and the two week break seemingly allowed the team to sharpen their skills and regain focus. GL's determination to get back to a winning record resulted in their first win of the season with a score of 172 to 201. Sot shot a 35 and senior Rice scored 39 to lead their team to victory. Two new players to the GL team this year, senior Billy Pencek and sophomore Domenic Pelligrini, both contributed to the GL victory.
With their first win in the bag, the Highlanders again faced the daunting task of traveling to Echo Lake CC in Westfield to meet the 7th ranked team according to NJ Advanced Media, the Westfield Blue Devils. GL knew scoring in the 170's would never be enough to defeat Westfield with some of the best golfers in the state having a home course advantage. But, once again, GL played with a renewed sense of determination and kept the match close throughout. With just a few holes remaining in the match, GL was surprisingly ahead by a slim margin, but Westfield was not about to be outperformed on their home turf. The Blue Devils rallied to finish just one stroke better than the Highlanders and GL lost by a score of 164 to 165.
Although it was a disappointing loss for GL, it was also a morale booster for the team by coming so close to beating a top 10 seed. GL was led by Sot with a score of 38, defeating his Westfield counterpart, Bear Mooney, who shot 39. Rice and Haddad both scored a 42 and Faecher finished strong with a 43. It was a valiant effort by all four GL golfers and a good sign the team was becoming more consistent with lower scoring.
The next round of play brought the Highlanders to Arthur L. Johnson HS in Clark. GL's growing confidence resulted in a wide margin of victory with a score of 163-213 at Hyatt Hills golf club. GL's victory was led by Faecher with a low score of 37, assisted by teammates Sam Bakaletz, Haddad and Sot, all shooting an equal score of 42. This win continued to boost GL's confidence as well as their record to 2-3.
On Thursday, GL faced Kenilworth's Brearley HS at a soggy Ashbrook golf course. GL was hoping to stay in the 160 team score range, as they did in the previous two matches. The Highlanders again demonstrated their improving skills and growing confidence to score a commanding win over Brearley of 164-280. Haddad led GL with a low score of 39, followed close by Sot at 40. Rice continued his consistent strong play this season to shoot 42, followed by fellow seniors Andrew DelDuca and Carmine Cioffi, both with solid scores of 43.
With the GL golf record at 3-3, they eagerly looked forward to their match vs. neighbor New Providence on Friday. Although the Highlanders were not playing at their best, it was enough to win their third in a row with a score of 179-187. GL top scores were posted by Rice and Sot, both with 43. Assisting in the win was Haddad, Bakaletz and Faecher.
GL's record now stands at 4-3 for the season with some challenging rematches ahead. They play in the Conference tournament on Monday at Galloping Hill Golf course.