GOFFSTOWN — The roster was different, the venue was different, the weather was very different, but for the Keene High golf team, Tuesday’s Division I team state tournament was business as usual, at least on paper.
The Blackbirds finished sixth overall at Stonebridge Country Club, just one spot below its fifth-place finish at The Oaks Golf Links in Somersworth last year. They also had two golfers qualify for the individual state tournament for the second year in a row, with seniors Cam Round and Nick Nadeau making the cut.
“The team did good. Everyone played good,” Nadeau said. “We knew going into this that everyone had to play really good to even have a chance, but the good thing to take away is that no one played really bad.”
The individual championship is set for Sunday at 10 a.m. at Beaver Meadow Golf Course in Concord.
The Birds turned in a team score of 62-over par 422. Bedford kept its golf dynasty going with its sixth straight title, shooting a combined 34-over 394, while Exeter took the runner-up spot at 40-over 400.
On the individual side, Timberlane’s Jack Pepin took first, shooting 2-under 70, while Nashua North’s Bryce Zimmerman and Salem’s Evan Desjardins finished in a tie for second at even-par 72.
On a sunny October day — which made for quite the contrast from last year’s rain-soaked tourney — both Round and Nadeau improved on their scores from last year by two strokes. Round shot a 7-over 79 to finish in a tie for 12th with Nashua North’s Chris McQuinn, while Nadeau tallied a 10-over 82, snagging one of the last qualifying spots in a three-way tie for 18th.
For Round, it was his second straight year qualifying for the individual tourney, but for Nadeau, it was a spot of redemption after he missed last year’s cut by a single stroke.
“I was really happy with my play today,” Round said. “I didn’t do too many bad things, just kept it in play and played some golf.”
“Just barely made it,” Nadeau said, “but all that matters is if you make it, and it’s a new round on Sunday.”
It was a nice finishing note for the two seniors, who stepped up following the graduation of girls’ golf champion Hannah Drew — who led the team last year with a 9-over 80 — and regular contributor Carson O’Neil.
But while they were without doubt the highlights of the day, there were some promising performances from the younger players as well.
Sophomore Owen Aivaliotis had one of his best rounds in some time, shooting a 14-over 86; fellow sophomore Kyle Foster improved on his mark from last year by two strokes, finishing with a 15-over 87; and freshman Sam Timmer tied senior Justin Borden at 16-over 88.
“We’re looking for those three kids [Aivaliotis, Foster and Timmer] next year to really take the step up and replace the seniors,” Keene Coach John Luopa said.
Rounding out Keene’s scores were senior Jerred Tattersall (23-over 95) and junior Taylor Panek (24-over 96).
Teeing off from holes 6-11 in Tuesday’s shotgun start, the Keene golfers began on what are, according to Luopa, some of the toughest holes at Stonebridge, and it showed.
Both Round and Nadeau had early double-bogeys — Nadeau on his first hole on 6, and Round on his second on 8. Round hit a shot that went onto a cart path and into a hazard, and he needed to take a drop, while Nadeau hit one into a pond.
But both players kept their poise and rebounded.
After shooting 3-over through his first three holes, Round steadied himself by going 1-over through his next 10 holes. Nadeau shot bogey or worse in eight of his first nine holes, but went 1-over the rest of the way.
Aivaliotis was 9-over through his first six holes, and Foster was 6-over at the same point, but both managed to stabilize their games and turn in solid outings.
“That was one of the things I stressed with them at practice,” Luopa said. “There’s gonna be some adversity, there’s gonna be some bad shots; you have to forget your last shot and move on to the next one, and I think they did a pretty good job of that.”
And Sunday will bring another challenge for Round and Nadeau, as they aim to play steady golf and finish their careers on a strong note. The key, Round said, is to just keep things business as usual.
“Same thing as today,” Round said. “Just keep the ball in play, play some golf.”