MANCHESTER, N.H. — Finn Allen picked up a golf club for the first time only four years ago. But on Tuesday afternoon at Derryfield Country Club, he played like a cool-headed veteran.
Allen placed fifth at the NHIAA Division III team golf championship, leading his Stevens High team to a runner-up performance. It’s the best finish for the Cards since 2001 when they came within a stroke of the NHIAA Class I crown.
Allen’s 7-over-par 77 secured a spot in Sunday’s state individual championships at Concord Country Club, too. He’ll be joined by teammates Dylan Adamovich (80) and Reeve Wilkinson (84). Lebanon’s Zach Bitler (88) also made the cut, which was at 18-over-par 88.
“We all worked really hard for this,” said Allen, who’s a senior and will be competing in the individual championships for the second straight year. “(Assistant coach) Brian Stowell has a TrackMan (golf simulator) and he’s super-generous, so we’re in there a few times a month in the winter. And then I pretty much play every day in the summer.”
Stevens built off of last year’s sixth-place performance and entered Tuesday’s meet with a 22-1 record. The Cards’ improvement showed, shooting a 52-over-par 332 and finishing 10 shots behind Bow (322) but edging out perennial contender Derryfield (339). The Falcons have now won seven D-III team championships since 2010.
Stevens was without coach Ryan Seaver because his wife was expecting the couple’s first baby at any moment. Instead, fourth-year coach Ian MacDonald stepped up, and Stowell was bopping around the course to offer advice.
Lebanon (362) placed eighth among 19 teams, with all five of its golfers shooting below 93, which was what first-year coach Matt Dancosse was aiming for entering the day. The Raiders tied for 10th a year ago.
“I think if we continue to work on our course management (we can improve for next year),” Dancosse said. “When to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive. Realizing that you don’t need to make 18 pars to shoot a good score. You can shoot a good score and sprinkle in five pars and 13 bogeys and still come out with an 85.”
Allen was paired with the first group that included Russell Hamel from Pelham, last year’s D-III state champion. Hamel’s booming drives could be intimidating at times, Allen admitted, but focusing on his own game was the only thing he could do.
The group teed off on No. 1, but it was on the curvy back nine that Allen made his move. He carded a birdie on holes 11 and 14 and parred four of the other seven. The course’s pin placements were different from what the Cards saw most of this season when they were playing on mostly flat courses. Derryfield’s windy hills and pins out of sight from the tee box led to some challenges.
Adamovich took a share of ninth place for the second consecutive year. He double-bogeyed three holes on the front nine but regained some ground with four pars and two birdies on the back. Wilkinson tied for 14th.
Bitler’s start didn’t go as planned. The junior’s left foot slipped on his first tee shot of the day on hole No. 7. The ball sailed out of bounds, ultimately resulting in a quadruple bogey. The weather was calm and sunny for almost the entire day, but the grass was slick in the morning because of the frost.
“Bad thoughts for the first hole,” Bitler said. “It’s pretty tough, you just have to keep going. You have to laugh at it because if you don’t you’ll get in your own head.”
C.J. Naugler (91) closed out the scoring for Stevens. Cedric Allen (106) also played a round.
Ben Begin (91), Nathan Stark (91) and Roy Shapard (92) all posted strong rounds for the Raiders. Alex Blish (97) took to the course for Lebanon, too.
The trio of Cardinals who will contend for the D-III individual crown Sunday are all seniors.
“Compared to four years ago when I started helping out with the program, we had nobody going to individuals,” MacDonald said. “And now we have three players? We couldn’t be happier.”
NOTES: Players didn’t have to wear a mask but all spectators were required to. Pin flags were not touched or removed from the hole so the round was contactless. … Fall Mountain’s Mitchell Cormier and Laconia’s Evan Rollins each shot a 1-over par 71 to enter Sunday in a tie for first place. … Both Lebanon and Stevens were not provided transportation through their districts and had to make the trip down themselves. … The Cards were able to get in a practice round as a team, but the Raiders had theirs canceled. Some players took the initiative to drive down on the weekend with their families. … Derryfield CC pro Cory Mansfield is a Lebanon native and former professional at Montcalm Golf Club.
Pete Nakos can be reached at [email protected]