Rams boys take 3rd on links at FCIACs
FAIRFIELD -- The New Canaan boys golf team took to the green on Thursday afternoon, squaring off with the league's best in the FCIAC golf championship. When all was said and done, a balanced team effort paved the way to a strong third-place showing that included solid efforts from each Rams competitor.
At the top of the leaderboard, Staples shocked the defending champion Cardinals from Greenwich to claim the crown.
"Our main goal the entire season has been winning FCIACs," Dylan Murray, the Wreckers' No. 1 golfer, said. "The FCIAC has the strongest teams and all of our main opponents are in this tournament. So that has been our No. 1 goal and we have talked about winning it all year."
After two decades of seeing some of its biggest rivals capture the championship trophy, Staples brought one back home to Westport. Murray and Kirk Massie each shot an even-par 71 at D. Fairchild Wheeler Golf Club for the Wreckers, who won the eight-team championship tournament with a score of 294. Greenwich, which claimed the FCIAC title a year ago, finished second (299), followed by New Canaan (301), Trumbull (305) and Ridgefield (317). St. Joseph finished sixth (325), Darien was seventh (327) and Trinity Catholic placed eighth (336).
"I'm really pleased with how the guys did today," New Canaan head coach Bill Brown said. "I felt it would come down to not just our top two guys, but each of our five guys. Depth is so important, and everyone really stepped up from start to finish."
Spearheading the Rams' charge was standout and No. 1 player Brian Tohir, who concluded the tournament in tremendous fashion. On the 18th hole, Tohir stood 25 feet away from pay dirt and pitched one that gracefully fell three feet short of the cup. One easy putt later, Tohir had secured a score of 74 to nail down the top three finish for New Canaan.
"I was thinking about what I wanted to do, and I decided to place a pitch shot," said Tohir, the top-ranked Ram all season. "Overall, I'm really proud of all my teammates. We had a really good day, and we are focused on carrying this effort over to the state tournament next week."
Those teammates in question supplied big shots all day despite the mixed conditions. Rainfall ceased play just six holes in, and following the delay, the humidity and heat provided all golfers with a stifling atmosphere.
"We wanted to play 18 holes all along," said Brown. "We're glad the weather cleared so we could get back out there."
Once the storm settled, the Rams went back to work. Alex Geanakos shot a 78 for New Canaan, while C.J. Swift matched Tohir's team-best mark of 74 on the afternoon. Ben Katz notched a score of 76, and Patrick Haggerty shot a 77 for the Rams. For Haggerty and company, being part of a roster that loses no one to graduation leaves plenty of room for potential.
"We have a young team, so today was a big step for us," said Haggerty. "With focus and hard work, we can do well in States and return to the FCIAC championship next season even stronger."
The victory marked the first time Staples garnered the crown in Tom Owen's 21 years at the helm.
"It is pretty emotional," Owen said. "We have come close a few times, like last year when we were one stroke away from making the playoff with Greenwich and Wilton. When you beat quality teams like Greenwich and New Canaan it means a lot."
Murray birdied the par-5 eighth and ninth holes and consistently sank clutch par puts during the back nine. He left the match proud of his teammates, who rose to the important occasion. Conor Mahoney carded a 74, while Austin Alianiello and Brian Wolgast each shot a 78 for the Wreckers.
"That is what you need to win this -- it's a team effort," said Murray, who shot a 2-under 34 on the front nine. "This is a team event and everyone has to play up to their capability."
The Cardinals, who tied Staples during the regular season, received an even-par 71 from Stephen Pastore and a 2-over-par 73 from Danny Guise. Senior David Pastore, the Cards' No. 1 golfer, struggled en route to carding a 76.
Guise managed to post a solid score despite nursing a sore back.
"I made a 40-footer for par on six and a 40-footer for birdie on seven, so that kept me going," said Guise, a freshman. "We knew Staples and New Canaan were going to be tough. They have been playing well lately."
For the Rams, who will look to defend their Division II title from a season ago, the state tournament on Wednesday could not arrive at a better time.
"Just like today, it's going to take a strong effort from each guy," said Brown. "Brian and C.J. have led us most of the year, but our other guys really played outstanding today. The guys are playing really well lately, and as long as we sustain that consistency from top to bottom, we should be in great shape next week."
-- David Fierro contributed to this story.