By Kevin Stone, Contributing Writer
GRAFTON – When you’ve coached for over a decade, there are very few things that can surprise you anymore.
On the flip side of that, the rare surprises are what keeps coaches coming back year in and year out. Grafton golf coach Bill Stock had one of those rare surprise moments on Oct. 12.
Despite being a consistent threat, having won their last three league championship meets, Stock didn’t expect his squad to take home the SWCL title at Leicester Country Club this year. But they did just that, led by a 77-stroke performance by senior co-captain Ryan Schiappa.
Stock remained excited about the win a day after the fact.
“I saw some guys grow up,” he said in an interview. “It was a big stepping stone for a team without much experience. My number one player [Schiappa] has played for four years, but the others haven’t played as much or had tournament experience at all. Throughout the season, I would see glimpses, but there wouldn’t be anything constant there.”
“It was one of those up-and-down kind of years,” he continued. “Two of the losses were by one stroke, so going into yesterday, I wasn’t expecting to win or didn’t think we had a great shot, because I didn’t know what I was going to get. That’s what made it so enjoyable, and I couldn’t be prouder of their effort.”
Senior co-captain Nick Viens also broke 80 with a 79-stroke day, as did junior Domenic Maynard. Junior Noah Barnatt fired an 81 as sophomore Carter Burnett posted an 80, and freshman Jack McCaffrey put up 86 in his first big-time tournament.
Only six players can play in the league and district matches. But teams don’t get nine wins on the season as Grafton did without other players contributing toward the bottom of the lineup.
Dylan Smith, Alisha Braich, Mason DeCaire, Dominic Rossi, Alex Taylor, Finn Mahoney, Jude Charbonneau and Jake Willar were all on the team as well, and all have contributed to their 2021 squad’s success.
“They’re very important,” Stock said of the other team members.
“I had a group of players who were all in the mix, and it took me until last week to make a final determination of who would be the last two,” he said of the process of selecting his tournament team.
Grafton will now turn its collective eyes to the Division 1 sectional tournament, which will be the Gators’ first appearance at the D1 tournament after years spent playing in Division 2.
“We had been D2 up until the most recent realignment from the MIAA,” Stock explained.
“It gives us some legitimacy [with the success] of this team,” he added. “We’ve had kids come through the program who have been really successful and who have gone on to play college golf, so it just continues to reinforce the fact, if you’re good enough to play at Grafton, then you may be able to go on to play collegiately.”