For only the second time in school history, the Rye Country Day boys’ golf team captured the Fairchester Athletic Association championship in early May at the Country Club of Woodbridge in Connecticut. The Wildcats’ aggregate score of 396 was a full 27 strokes better than second place St. Luke’s, and 30 better than rival Brunswick, who finished third.
“The win means a lot to me, especially being the captain,” said senior Joe Barber, who earned All-League Honorable Mention. “I held a team meeting before the season and told the team we have two main goals this year: one, winning the FAA; two, defending the NYSAIS championship. Now we have one down and the other is on its way.”
Rye Country Day will look to win a fifth consecutive NYSAIS State championship May 25 at Putnam National Golf Club in Mahopac. If the Wildcats play as they did in the FAA tourney, the 14-2 team should cruise to the title. Junior Colin McDade shot a 74 en route to medalist honors at Woodbridge, battling through high winds on a difficult day for golf. He finished strong on the par-4 18th hole, overcoming a shot carried into the trees by the gale. McDade was forced to chip out, but able to get up and down for par.
“I was lucky to be paired with some of the higher-caliber players in the field; I knew that these were some of the guys to beat,” said McDade. “I was able to get off to a pretty decent start and it carried through the round. The winds definitely affected everyone’s play and probably made for the greatest challenge.”
McDade earned All-League honors along with teammates Brian Starker, James Kennedy and Harrison Baker. Baker placed second behind McDade by shooting a 77. He was part of the last group off the course, and had no idea his team won until he was walking back to the clubhouse. After making the turn and seeing top players from St. Luke’s and Brunswick struggling, he knew – “so long as our guys hung tough” – that they would win.
“Our depth is tough to match,” said Baker. “All of our players are top notch; everyone is capable of shooting a low score. Because our team is so deep, we have contended and will continue to year in and year out. The fact that all of us made All-League was impressive in itself.”
The Wildcats dealt with a coaching change this season, as Steve Konopka took over for Maryanne Lynch. Each of the players praised Konopka for seamlessly grabbing the reigns, and the first-year head coach said it was his pleasure to coach a group of 12 exemplary student-athletes. The transition was easy because the Wildcats are a tight-knit group of friends with a strong sense of camaraderie.
“It’s really special to have a fun and talented teammates,” said Kennedy. “Not a practice goes by without a couple of laughs. Brian, Colin and Baker, who we like to call ‘Bakedog’, have all been stepping up this year, and it was really awesome to see them play so well.”
When it comes to defending their NYSAIS State title, lack of confidence is not issue for these Wildcats.
“We have been successful at the NYSAIS championship the past four years and if we stay focused on our goal, there is no reason why we shouldn’t retain it for a fifth,” said Starker. “We know when it’s time to focus on the course, but we also know how to stay relaxed and have fun. We are one tight unit and if a player struggles, another picks him right up. It’s just the way a team should be.