CONWAY — If you see Coach Ed Bradley smiling a lot this season, there’s a good reason, he likes the makeup of the Kennett High golf team. The Eagles, who finished sixth overall in the Division II Team Championship last fall, have a hosted on talented players on the links, and this could be the hometown flock’s best year yet.
“We look OK,” Bradley, who is in his third year at the helm of the Eagles, said Friday. “We’re cautiously optimistic.”
Kennett opened the season on a winning note at the North Conway Country Club on Tuesday with the Eagles topping Goffstown, Kingswood and Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, 103 to 94, 80 and 75, respectively, on the links.
"The kids didn't feel as though they played up to their expectations," Bradley said. "It was a good start. I think they have great expectations but playing in match competition is a little different."
At Division II Team Championship on Oct. 7 at Pease Golf Course in Portsmouth, the Eagles finished sixth overall out of the seven schools vying for the team title.
St. Thomas, the No. 1 seed with a 23-2 record, won the team title by shooting a score of 391.
Windham was second with a score of 400, followed by Portsmouth, 408; Souhegan, 413; Kennett, 416; and Hollis/Brookline, 425.
“We played OK,” said Bradley, a KHS Class of 1981 graduate. “I think we would have liked to play a little better. We had a shot at third.”
Kennett went 18-7 during the regular season to finish tied for fourth overall with Hollis-Brookline in the 12-team Division II.
The championships were played in stroke format rather than the Stableford scoring system, which was used all season.
Traditionally, teams seek to score low when they are on the links, but not in 2018 or again in 2019. The NHIAA has opted to try the Stableford scoring system against this fall. Unlike stroke play, which rewards the lowest score, the Stableford system places points for various scores on a hole. Officials believed it would also speed up the pace of play.
Stableford scoring rewards 6 points for a double eagle, 5 for an eagle, 4 for a birdie, 3 for par, 2 for a bogey and 1 for double bogey. If the golfer hasn’t finished the hole at double bogey, the hole is over and they receive no points.
“It is what it is,” Bradley said when asked about the format again this season. “It’s the same for every team.”
Connor Tofflemoyer, a junior at the time, finished fourth overall on the day at Pease with a round of 76 (par is 71) to earn his way into the state individual tournament, which was played at the Derryfield Country Club in Manchester. Tofflemoyer shot a 94 to finish with a two-round score of 170 and finish tied for 11th, one stroke out of 10th and five away from eighth.
In the team event, Colby Hall, a junior, and Miles Woodbury, a senior, both shot 83; senior Riley Fletcher, 95; and junior Brady King, 100.
Seniors Tyler Brandon, Foster Piotrow and Jeffrey Palmer shot 84, 90 and 107, respectively. The trio were the lone seniors lost to graduation.
Bradley and assistant coach Steve Piotrow have 23 athletes (down from a previous record 27 last year) out for the team this fall.
“Having Steve back helping has been great,” Bradley said. “He’s working with the JV kids which allow me to get on the course and (work with the starters).”
New to the team but certainly not new to the links multi-talented freshman Ben Dougherty, who is ranked No. 4 in the state in the youth golf rankings. Dougherty played in the World Teen Championships at famed Pinehurst No. 5 in North Carolina last summer.
“He’s a very talented player,” Bradley said, adding that Dougherty has traveled across the country the past four or five years playing in tournaments while working hard on his game.
Bradley believes he has five players capable of regularly shooting under 40 for nine holes in Dougherty, Woodbury, Fletcher, Tofflemoyer and Hall, who all have a passion for the sport.
“They played a lot of golf over the summer,” Bradley said.
Bradley has also been impressed with the strides senior Cole Rogers has made with his game.
“Cole worked at the club this summer and has worked hard on his game,” he said.
Other members of this year’s team include seniors Jeremiah Brito, Gage Drew, Evan Eldridge, Connor Glavin, Brady King, Gabe Mohla and Owen Strout; juniors Matt Cormier, Mason Drew, John Egan, Aidan Henderson, Sean Regnier, Brady Shaw and Bryson Wrobleski; sophomores Griffin McAuliffe, Henry Moneypenny, Spencer Ogren and Garrison Phaneuf; and freshmen Grant Barahona, MacCary Kelsch, Thomas Roosenboom.
No girls came out for the team this fall.
In terms of team strength, Bradley says it’s the depth of the roster.
“We have kids who have played a lot of golf and it’s starting to pay off. Hopefully, we’ll be pretty good.”
Bradley wants his athletes to develop a love for the game and be lifelong golfers.
“My goal is for everyone to try to get better all the time and for the students to work and play as a team,” Bradley added. “Some days you’re going to have to grind at your game, but don’t give up. It’s a good sign if we can do that. I want them to remember that there’s always room for improvement. You lose the most strokes, not off the tee, but in the short game. We’ve got to try not to waste shots.”
The team has been practicing at North Conway Country Club, both on the links and at the driving range.
“We really want to thank Kevin Walker (club pro) and the North Conway Country Club for being so supportive of the program,” Bradley said. “Everyone has been great to us.”
Bradley also thanked the Valley Originals for their continued support of the program and Rotten Rock Concrete Construction, which purchased hats for the team.
“We’re very fortunate to have the sort of community support we get,” he said. “I can’t thank the community enough.”
Kennett closed out the week on Thursday with another match against Oyster River and a first meeting with Milford at Nippo Lake Golf Club in Barrington. Results were not known as of press time.