Junior golf title for McLaughlin
The CorseMax/Philadelphia Runner Junior Championship seems to bring out the best in Nick McLaughlin (inset).
For the second time in three years, the St. John’s Prep senior from New Castle, N.H., won the American Junior Golf Association event, this time charging from behind to win by a stroke.
McLaughlin carded rounds of 74-75-71 (220) over the 6,960-yard, par-71 White Manor Country Club course in Williston Township, Pa., to edge Derek Bard of New Hartford, N.Y., and Harrison Shih of Saddle River, N.J., who tied for second at 221.
In 2009, McLaughlin’s victory came on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. This year he rallied from six strokes behind to win in regulation. Both times he battled rain delays, gusty winds, and soggy turf.
The 17-year-old McLaughlin entered the final round a half-dozen shots behind Chris Houston of Gilford, N.H., but felt confident he could overcome the deficit.
“I played well enough the first two rounds, but just wasn’t consistent,’’ he said. “With the weather conditions being what they were, I felt if I could be consistent in the final round I’d have a chance. I wasn’t worried about the deficit. My hope was to play a solid round and whatever happens, happens.’’
After a three-hour rain delay, the 6-foot-7 McLaughlin worked his game plan to perfection. He parred the first five holes, bogeyed the sixth, and made pars on 7-8-9 to make the turn at 1-over. On the back nine, he birdied the 10th to draw even and then closed with eight straight pars.
Meanwhile, the leaders were falling victim to course conditions and one by one fell by the wayside.
“I don’t know if I could have made up six strokes on a sunny day and a dry course,’’ admitted McLaughlin. “The weather really helped me. I wasn’t perfect out there, but I was consistent and handled the conditions better.’’
McLaughlin, a two-time Boston Globe Player of the Year, has not played much competitive golf this season. He won the Massachusetts Golf Association Junior Championship at Renaissance Country Club in Haverhill; finished 10th in the AJGA stop in North Carolina; and took third in the Western Junior in Chicago.
Instead, he has been visiting colleges.
“I don’t know where I’m going yet, but definitely somewhere warmer than up here,’’ said McLaughlin, who plays out of Wentworth By The Sea in Portsmouth, N.H., and maintains a handicap at Far Corner in Boxford to keep him eligible for MGA events. “I’m looking for a school that has a strong golf team and strong academics.’’
He’s visited Georgia Tech, Rice, College of Charleston, Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke, University of North Carolina, North Carolina State, Furman, and Notre Dame. He hopes to decide by Oct. 1, he said, “if not sooner.’’
Longtime golf pro Jane Frost, who has tutored McLaughlin for 10 years, says the college that lands him “will be getting a commodity that never gives up.’’
“Nick has set his sights on going as far as he can,’’ Frost said in a phone interview from her golf school at Sandwich Hollows on Cape Cod. “Despite some tough times and setbacks in his development, he has stuck in there and grinded away. He’s the little engine that could. Some college is going to get a leader who plays for the love of the game.’’
Frost said McLaughlin’s size has been a challenge.
“He’s had some incredible growth spurts over the years,’’ she said, “and that’s challenging from both a coach’s and player’s perspective. At times it was difficult to work on his mechanics. What worked one month didn’t necessarily work the next. So we worked on the mental side of the game, course management, the short game. He grasped it all.’’
McLaughlin will play in three prestigious tournaments this fall. Later this month, he’ll travel to Spartanburg, S.C., to play in the Bobby Chapman Invitational; to Palm Beach, Fla., in November for the AJGA stop at PGA National; and then to Sea Island, Ga., for the Jones Cup Invitational.
Coaches predict River Hawks title
The University of Massachusetts Lowell field hockey team has been tabbed as No. 1 in the preseason poll by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association.
The defending NCAA Division 2 champions, after roaring through last season 24-0, received 152 points and nine of 17 first-place votes in the poll, despite losing seven players to graduation, including Liz Day of North Andover, the Division 2 North Region Player of the Year, and Sammy Macy of Tewksbury, the Collegiate Women’s Athlete of the Year.
However, the River Hawks are returning 14 veterans, including Kayla MacDonald of Chelmsford and Rachel McCarthy of Reading, both Northeast-10 Conference All-Rookie selections last fall.
Around and about Melissa Garabedian of Salem and Jessica Peacock of Hopedale will captain the Merrimack College women’s soccer team this fall. Garabedian is a senior defender who has started 43 straight games . . . Bridget Souza of Medford, who captained Wentworth Institute’s softball team last season, has been honored with a Senior Scholar-Athlete Award. Souza batted .337 and graduated with a degree in civil engineering technology . . . Merrimack’s hockey team will host its annual fund-raising golf tournament Sept. 19 at Black Swan Country Club in Georgetown. It’s a 10 a.m. shotgun start. Call 978-837-5341 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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