For the Keene High golf team, Tuesday’s regular season finale at Bretwood Golf Course was a good representation of the team’s strengths, weaknesses, and its potential heading into next Tuesday’s Division I State Championship.
The Blackbirds registered a season-low 200 team points to finish four strokes behind five-time defending champion Bedford (196) and 20 ahead of defending runner-up Concord (220). The 1-1 split brought Keene to a 14-8 finish to complete the regular season.
“We’ve had a pretty good season,” said Keene senior captain Nick Nadeau. “I think we definitely have a chance at the state title if we can play good and play smart.”
Keene has been the picture of consistency over the past couple weeks. The Blackbirds have posted a score between 200 and 210 in eight of their 10 matches, including each of the last six.
According to second-year coach John Luopa, that consistency is one of the team’s biggest strengths, and is one of its biggest keys to success at the state tourney.
While the Birds don’t have one player consistently leading the way, they have a well-balanced roster where just about anyone is capable of taking charge on any given day.
Four different players have sat atop Keene’s scoresheet over the course of the season. Nadeau has led the way five times, followed by senior Cam Round three times, sophomore Kyle Foster twice and senior and first-time varsity player Jerred Tattersall once.
Tuesday was Foster’s day, as he shot a personal-best 38. Nadeau and Round each tallied a 40, while Tattersall and Justin Borden each scored 41.
“That’s one of the big things with golf, especially high school golf, you just want consistency,” Luopa said. “All of our top golfers have had really good scores in the mid- to high-30s, but that said, they’ve also all had scores in the mid-40s, so we’re just looking for consistent play.”
Looking ahead to next Tuesday, the state tourney will be played at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown, over an hour to the southwest of last year’s site, The Oaks Golf Links in Somersworth. This year’s course is a par 72 that spans 6,808 yards, with its longest hole being the 560-yard, par-5 14th hole.
Luopa said Stonebridge has a relatively easy front nine – with six par-4s, two par-3s and the course’s shortest par-5 (490 yards) – while the back nine is where things pick up in difficulty – with three par-5s over 500 yards, and the course’s four longest par-4s.
Nadeau said the biggest key for the players to handle this course is to maintain their mental fortitude and not let a bad hole get them down.
“I think the key for us is we need to work mentally,” Nadeau said. “I think physically we have the chance to win, but mentally, if we can stay in it and battle it out when we make a high score, then I think that’s what we need to focus on.”
Last year, Keene finished fifth at the state tourney – ahead of two teams that had better regular-season records.
The Birds were led by then-senior Hannah Drew, who shot an 80, while Round recorded an 81 to qualify for the individual tournament. Nadeau finished at 84, missing the cut for the individual tourney by one stroke, and was followed by then-senior Carson O’Neil at 86 and Foster at 89.
Luopa said the top three teams in Division I are pretty well set in stone, with Bedford, Pinkerton and Exeter sitting at the top. But he also said matches like Tuesday prove the Birds can hang with the best of teams on a good day, and all they need for a high finish this year is another good day.
“If our guys put in a really good, solid round, I think a top five finish is definitely there,” Luopa said. “You never know what can happen in that one-day event.”