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Eagles take fourth at golf championships

by Jeff Lajoie
Sports Reporter

Gilford’s Coby Goodwin chips from off the green on number nine at Newport Golf Club on Oct. 4. The Golden Eagles finished in fourth place at the NHIAA Division III Championships. Jeff Lajoie. (click for larger version)
October 08, 2012
NEWPORT – Five players broke 100 as the Gilford High School golf team finished in fourth place at the NHIAA Division III Championship held at Newport Golf Club on Oct. 4.

The Golden Eagles registered a team score of 367, finishing behind new state champion Bow, as well as Mascenic and Pelham. With four-time state individual champion Chris Houston now playing at Penn State, Gilford used a balanced attack to qualify in the seventh spot for the state championship and move up to fourth.

"It's a whole different team now without Chris," admitted Gilford coach Jim Swarthout. "But these guys did great. There were three really strong teams fighting it out for the top spot so I knew it would take us shooting way below our averages to get there. On a day like today, the kids from top to bottom played well. Looking down at those scores, they should be really proud of that. Those guys should be hanging their heads pretty high."

After they finished 11-11 during the regular season, the Eagles qualified in the seventh and final spot for the state tournament as a team. To surpass three teams that finished higher than them during the regular season (Hillsboro-Deering, Conant and Campbell) was impressive.

"I thought if we could work ourselves up into fourth place, it would be a very successful day," Swarthout said. "We beat some very good teams that beat us during the regular season."

Junior Cam Patridge led the way for the Eagles with an 89 on the par 71 course, while Andrew Stokes carded a 91 for Gilford. Freshman Tyler Swarthout (93) and junior Rich Edson (94) were the other Eagles to figure into the team total, while Coby Goodwin (95) and Dylan Robbs (111) also turned in scores on the day.

"We definitely didn't expect to do as well (without Houston)," admitted Patridge, who shot a 43 on the front nine. "We're happy with fourth."

Without Houston, the Eagles relied on a roster of evenly-matched golfers to pace them this season.

"We didn't have the Chris-caliber player," began Swarthout. "We had a bunch of guys on the team this year that all played very similar. We have no seniors so getting some experience for these kids is big. Letting them know that they can play at this level and compete to be able to move up into fourth place. They played consistent today and they settled the nerves down and competed."

While some teams took to the course in Newport earlier in the week to prepare for the tournament, Swarthout said he decided not to have his squad play the course after seeing something in them earlier in the regular season.

"We played one course in particular two times and I found we did worse the second time we saw it," the coach said. "I thought with this group that taking a practice round and maybe getting a bad taste in their mouth might carry over. So I thought we'd just have them come in blind. We talked about the course…how to play it and different things like that and they seemed to do very well for themselves."

The course, as well as the wet weather that plagued golfers for most of the six-plus hour round, proved to be difficult. Scores in general were high, with an 85 or better getting D-III golfers a shot at the individual title, competed two days later at the same course.

"It was definitely tough," Patridge said of the course. "You had to hit a good ball on your first shot. You just had to avoid the hazards. I hit one in the hazard all day so that was good."

While the wet weather proved difficult to handle for many, Swarthout said the top players were able to overcome the conditions and still post strong scores.

"I think it really starts to affect your higher average-scoring players because when you start to add water to the rough, it becomes very difficult to get out of there," the coach explained. "You saw some high scores from some players that probably don't usually shoot that high because we really didn't have to play in the rain a whole lot this year. It's a different animal. But your top players adjust."

Patridge said the weather didn't present too big of a problem during his round, as the weather was expected to be worse than it ended up being.

"The grips were slippery and stuff but I think I did fine despite the conditions," he said. "It wasn't raining too hard, it could've been worse."

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