THORNTON – Two streaks were snapped at Tuesday’s Division III golf championships. Both were significant, but neither were surprising.
Kearsarge finished second at Owl’s Nest Resort & Golf Club, the best result in school history. The Cougars carded a 349 to wind up six shots behind Derryfield, a team that lost only one match all year, and that was against Kearsarge on Sept. 27.
“To lose to Derryfield by six strokes, after being the only team to beat them this year, I felt like overall that’s a huge success,” Kearsarge Coach Dave Muzzey said. “In the 18 years I’ve been coaching, that’s the first plaque we’ve received.”
Derryfield’s win meant the end of Bow’s string of five straight titles. The Falcons lost their top four players to graduation, so it wasn’t a shock to see them finish third overall with a 354.
“I thought this season was really good considering we only returned two players from last year’s squad and we had five new players and two freshmen. I thought they played really well,” Bow Coach Matt Davis said. “To be honest, I don’t think we talked about (the title streak) all year. They know it. And a couple guys have been on the team, and Bow is a pretty small community, so it’s been talked about, but we tried to focus on the this year’s group because, again, it’s brand new.”
Kearsarge was led by senior Jake Bears, who carded a 7-over-par 79 to finish second overall behind only Sanborn’s Keegan Branham (76). Bears will be in the top group, and in good position to win, at Saturday’s D-III individual championships. Using Tuesday’s scores as first round results, the top 15 players from will be back at Owl’s Nest for a second round that will determine the individual D-III winner.
“I was really good off the tee and my iron shots were good,” Bears said. “I struggled on the greens a little, but overall I think my whole game was on today. Hopefully I can do the same on Saturday, and maybe even a little better.”
After starting his day with a double bogey and a bogey, Bears settled into a nice rhythm and made 10 straight pars at the hilly, and windy, Owl’s Nest. His final six holes were a roller coaster – bogey, double bogey, birdie, double bogey, birdie and bogey – but it was more than good enough for Bears to make the cut of 88.
Kearsarge’s Will Chadwick finished tied for seventh with an 85 and will join Bears for the return trip to Thornton on Saturday. Kearsarge’s other scorers were Sean Higgins (91) and Bennett Pitts (94).
“In these conditions, with the wind, this is not an easy golf course. You have to manage your way around the course,” Muzzey said. “We went over a lot of it after our practice round on Sunday, and we played that with the idea of taking notes and making sure that when you come out here today, you do your job. And they did that today, so I’m proud of them.”
Taking home runner-up hardware was a nice reward for Muzzey, who coached the team for 17 years, retired in the spring of 2016, but came back to coach this year because last year’s coach, Dennis O’Connor, was unable to return.
“Yes, I’m glad I came back. I had a lot of these kids when they were freshmen and sophomores, and it’s a great bunch of kids,” Muzzey said. “And that’s why I do it, for the kids, there’s no other reason.”
And the kids were happy to have their old coach back.
“He really helped us out this year,” Bears said. “He’s been coaching for 18 years, so he knows a lot.”
Bow will send two golfers back to Owl’s Nest on Saturday – sophomore Jake Mielcarz (81) and freshman Nate Benoit (88). Mielcarz, who finished fifth overall, carded a pair of birdies on the day and could have gone much lower if not for an eight on the par-4 16th hole. Bow sophomore CJ Smethurst just missed the individual cut with an 89 and junior captain Jason Howe rounded out the scoring for the Falcons with a 96.
“I thought they played well,” Bow’s Davis said of his team. “I was probably most impressed with their green-side play and on the green. I thought they putted really well and they overcame some tricky shots and spots where you have to play really smart, and they kind of fought through the course, which was nice to see.”
Gilford finished 11th as a team with a 407. Brady Reynolds (99), Brendan Bergman (100), Shaun Edson (102) and Hunter Wilson (106) scored for the Golden Eagles.
Belmont’s Will Robarge (94) and Laconia’s Michael Crowell (103) and Parker Minor (103) were the other local golfers who participated in the event as individuals.