The Whitman-Hanson Regional High boys’ golf team turned in another steady campaign on the course this fall.
Under the watch of head coach Brian Dempsey, the Panthers posted a 9-8 record and qualified for the state tournament for the fifth time in the past seven years.
In the Division 2 South (Cape & Islands) Sectional qualifying round – held at Easton Country Club on Oct. 24 – W-H was represented by seniors Tommy Bombardier, JP Drier (captain), Nick Duffy and Anthony Palmacci, junior Owen Manning (captain), and sophomore Matt Korzec.
The Panthers shot a 336 as a team, which was good for ninth. Manning was W-H’s top performer as he carded a 79 and missed the state tournament by one stroke.
“Every year, the team’s main goal is to quality for the state tournament, which puts us in a position to give six of our players a chance to move on to the state finals,” Dempsey explained. “I definitely consider this year a success – entering this year, our team was pretty much unknown around the league, and in my opinion, was probably written off. Though we had a slow start, we not only found our identity, but shocked a few teams.”
Shocked a few teams is right — on Oct. 11, with their postseason hopes hanging in the balance, the Panthers downed Duxbury by a final score of 232-241. The triumph was the their first ever over the Dragons. Dempsey said going into that match his team’s mindset was to play smart, consistent golf.
“I can’t remember a time where I was as excited for the guys on the team than I was for them this year after upsetting Duxbury,” Dempsey said. “You can’t strategize or plan for things to happen in golf like you can in most other sports, but on that day, it was as if we executed our game plan perfectly, which is why, as a whole team, we were able to beat Duxbury for the first time; everyone did their part, and everyone earned the win.”
In the victory, Palmacci scored a 1-over par and Manning, who was paired with him for the match, shot a 2-overpar to help set the tone.
Just a week prior, the Panthers took a tough Hingham team down to the wire before falling, 223-230.
However, it wasn’t always easy sledding this autumn for the Panthers who sat at 1-3 after a 261-266 loss to Plymouth South on Sept 14. Dempsey said he believes strength of schedule played into the Panthers’ struggles as their first three losses came to Silver Lake (231-239), Hingham (256-279) and Plymouth South, all of which ended the season with winning records.
But following that Plymouth South defeat, W-H turned a corner, and turned it the next day by downing East Bridgewater, 263-312. The victory propelled them to wins in five of their next eight matches which pulled them above .500 at 7-6 as a bevy of players began to step up. One player who was a pivotal part in the Panthers’ success this fall was Manning, who was their top golfer. Dempsey said Manning is a true role model on and off the field and he is excited to have him back in the fold next season.
“His approach to the game is so calm and methodic, which is what allows him to play so consistently throughout the season,” Dempsey, who will lose nine seniors off this team’s roster, explained. “He has improved so much from where he was last year as not only a player, but as a teammate and leader as well. What I appreciate about Owen so much is his ability to remain calm throughout his round and to be able to focus on the next hole.”
As the Panthers head into the offseason, one thing is certain, they’re in a good spot.
“I’m very proud of the recent success of the program,” Dempsey said. “I give all the credit to the leadership on the team each year. The commitment of players to the sport continues to grow every year.”