By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Northborough/Southborough – Consecutive win streaks occasionally reach double digits in high school sports, but what Algonquin Regional High School varsity golf head coach Bob Cullen and his troops have accomplished on the links since 2013 is nearly off the charts.
Cullen’s teams in that period have run off a consecutive win streak of 21 matches and but for an early-2015 loss to a tough Wachusett Regional High School, that streak would have extended another 11 as the Tomahawks have reeled off 10 straight victories to close out the regular season at 14-1 while moving on to post-season play.
Being successful is all well and certainly good but arguably it puts winning teams squarely in the sights of opponents looking to knock them off. That is not altogether a bad thing, said Tomahawk players and coaches.
“We know that after last year going undefeated, that every team is kind of fighting to get on our back this year and we don’t want to lose,” said senior co-captain Connor Henderson, one of the team’s most skilled player with a list of lengthy accomplishments including nine-holes carded with scores of 31 and 32 on multiple occasions. “We lost to Wachusett earlier this year and our goal is not to lose again and just try to beat those teams that make us feel like we have a target on our back.
“After that match, we sat down as a team and decided maybe we were taking a little too much for granted and tried to re-motivate us and it seemed like it worked since we haven’t lost since then.”
“It keeps the kids on their toes,” said Cullen. “We know that the opposition has circled us on their calendar well in advance so we’re getting everybody’s best. We know they’re gunning for us so the intensity stays up. I think the Wachusett loss really showed them that we’re beatable. Ever since, the kids are ready. They know they can be beaten and they don’t want to be beat anymore and we haven’t been.”
While often times viewed as an individual sport, competitive high school golf is anything but. Players lean on one another for support, encouragement and team cohesiveness.
“We have great depth on this team,” senior co-captain Matt Budz explained. “We have 10 players who can shoot in the 30s and maybe more than that. Some have not gotten into as many matches as they’d like to, but we just encourage them to keep playing. We try to inspire the younger kids to just keep going at it because they may not have played as much as they’d like to play this year but next year they’ll be at it.”
One major 2015 accomplishment was the team’s 187-191 victory over perennial powerhouse St. John’s High School of Shrewsbury. The win marked the team’s first ever versus the Pioneers under Cullen’s 15-year leadership, and the team was more than euphoric over delivering the win for their coach.
“St. John’s is a big rivalry for us and we just wanted to prepare the team and play our own game,” said Budz. “It was just a match where we couldn’t get too crazy and get ahead of ourselves. Coach really put in our minds that we’ve been playing well the whole year and this was just another match and we ended up pulling off the win.”
“We were pretty happy about beating St. John’s,” admitted Cullen. “It was awesome. We knew we had a good chance and the kids had been looking forward to that match.”
With regular-season matches complete, the team has its sights set on league tournament and the all-important district competition. Just two teams from central Mass. will advance to state competition.
“I think what we need to do is just stick to our own game,” said Henderson, who is narrowing down collegiate offers from schools who covet his presence on their respective campuses. “We’re moving into 18-hole matches now and we have guys who play 18- and 36-hole events, so we’re used to playing competition in longer periods of time so we’re ready for it.”
“The kids on this team are terrific students, and it’s great that they’re competitive and actually friendly competitive amongst themselves,” said Cullen, whose pride in his team is ever-present. “They all get along. They’re friendly. It’s just been a blast. They’re super kids who come ready to go in practice and they don’t like to lose, but they’re gracious if they do lose. This has been the most enjoyable season in my 15 years coaching here.”
The 2015 Algonquin Regional High varsity golf team is comprised of seniors Connor Henderson, Matt Budz, Andrew Warfield, Mike Nicolo and Andrew Nicolo along with juniors Kevin Reale, Max Ratner, Kevin Hatton, John Paterson and Mike Scorzelli.
Also chipping in this season for the Tomahawks are sophomores Nick Barooshian, Gus Chapin and Casey Leonard as well as freshmen Nick Hatton, Matt Umphrey and Jack Tobin.