It’s often said that those climbing a mountain are far hungrier than the ones who’ve already reached the peak. That line of thinking is apparently not taught at Rye Country Day.
On the heels of their Fairchester Athletic Association tournament victory, the boys’ golf team continued to feed their ravenous appetite for championships by winning a fifth consecutive NYSAIS State title in late May at Putnam National Golf Club in Mahopac. The Wildcats finished first with an aggregate score of 389, which was 21 strokes better than second-place Hackley.
“It’s a great feeling without doubt,” said Harrison Baker, who shot a 79 over 18 holes. “The NYSAIS win was the icing on the cake of a fantastic year.”
Brian Starker and Colin McDade paced Rye Country Day with twin 76s, each one stroke off the first place score. Starker was proudest of his performance on the 18th hole – his 17th of the day given the tournament’s shotgun start – despite hitting a terrible drive. The junior proceeded to strike one of the best 3-irons of his life, however, lifting off out of a fairway bunker and through some trees to put the ball on the green 15 feet from the pin. Although he didn’t birdie, Starker was “stoked” to leave the hole with no damage and a chance to medal still in play.
McDade, on the other hand, said his best work was right out of the gate on the first hole. Even though he hit the ball out of bounds on the first tee shot, he was able to compose himself to make a bogey and rolled from there.
“Colin and I are good friends and competitors who have a friendly rivalry,” said Starker. “We play together almost every day during the season and always challenge each other.”
Head coach Steve Konopka, who began the season with zero previous coaching experience, said the key to Rye Country Day’s success has been their unmatched depth. While Starker, McDade, Baker, James Kennedy, senior captain Joe Barber and Alex Friedman dominated in their top-six roles, players 7-12 were just as important, pushing the top golfers in practices that were always “pretty intense”, according to Konopka.
“Frankly, our players are simply better,” said Baker. “We are better in regard to both golf skills and mental toughness. We understand what we have to do to win regular matches and major tournaments. We also have a strong sense of camaraderie, which undoubtedly helps the overall strength of our team.”
Baker, who is among a returning All-FAA class that includes McDade, Kennedy and Starker, noted that his teammates long ago set the goal of finishing their careers with a sixth-straight title. They’ll have a great opportunity to do so, as rising stars Jonathan Kligman, Tyler McCaine, Anders Mikkelson and John Shuck should all step up to help in 2011.
“Luckily, our team doesn’t have too much to improve on in the way of golf skills,” Baker concluded. “Everyone has some weakness, but I’m confident all of our players will work on their game over the summer and return improved. All we’ll have to do is stay focused, and I have no doubt that we will continue to be successful.”