Fresh off a pair of quality match wins that brought them back into the FCIAC conversation, the Darien boys golf team traveled to Westport Monday aiming to move to the forefront against regular conference contender Staples. While the day's weather could not have been more cooperative to the squad's cause, illness, a handful of unfortunate bounces and one sizable home course advantage erased any shot of Wave victory at Longshore Golf Course.
Led by a 3-under score from No. 1 player Peter Richards, the Wreckers dropped Darien 145-155, lowering the Wave's record to 8-3 overall. Sophomore Christian Ostberg posted a score of 37, good for the lowest Wave mark of the day at 2 over par. Ostberg competed in the No. 2 group won by Staples' Andrew Felman, who shot an even par. Darien's No. 1 golfer, senior co-captain Mac Koorbusch, ended with an unusually high 43, as a result of tough triple bogeys on the first and sixth holes.
Yet, according to Wave coach Tom O'Donnell, had Darien even been able to notch a typical team score, it still may not have been enough to top the hosting Wreckers.
"I think we're capable of playing that well, but we would've had to have played our best round of the year to beat them today," O'Donnell said. "When a team plays that well, you've just got to shake their hand, look them in the eye and say congratulations ... I've never seen that score lose a match."
Cameron Van de Graaf, Darien's other senior co-captain, shot a 41 in the No. 3 group, as he dealt with a nagging sickness. Upon approaching the seventh hole par-5, Van De Graaf stood at solid 2 over, but a triple bogey rapidly changed his fortunes and allowed Staples sophomore Noah Robins to gain ground. However, the Wave senior would hold him off, besting Robins by a single stroke after nine holes.
"He was playing beautifully until he hit that triple bogey on seven," O'Donnell said. "But he's sick as a dog, and he was a real trooper trying to get through it today."
One hole earlier on six, Ostberg fell behind Felman due to a unfortunate bounce that strayed him from the green and led to an eventual double bogey, his only misstep of the day. Felman then managed to extend his lead to two strokes by sinking a 15-foot putt on eight that all but ensured another individual Staples victory.
"I parred eight holes and doubled the sixth," Ostberg said. "That one will sting a little bit. I just got a couple bad breaks on that one and wasn't able to get out of it mentally. But overall, I played pretty solid and was pretty happy with how it went."
Outside of Darien's struggles on a couple holes, the deciding edge for the Wreckers proved to be their ability to putt on slower home greens, which were still recovering from a brutally dry summer one year ago.
"I think what it was was that they made more puts than we did," O'Donnell said. "Nobody for us was claiming to have made any putts at all ... and that's the thing with golf. There's no bigger home course advantage anywhere in the world of sports than in golf. But, having said that, they just played better than us today."
Down in the No. 4 grouping, sophomore Sam Knowlton earned a 39, a score propped up by a couple putts that lipped out. Darien's No. 5 golfer, Brendan Cassidy, shot one better at 38, largely thanks to an excellent birdie on the eighth hole. Cassidy filled in for sophomore Jack Klingman, who sat out with wrist injury.
Looking ahead, Klingman is expected to return sooner rather than later to his accustomed No. 2 slot, which ought to provide a significant boost to the Wave in its upcoming matches that will lead up to the FCIAC championship on June 2.
"We're going to have to play better than we did today, if we want to contend for championships," O'Donnell said. "The good news is we can play better than we did today. So, I'm not real disappointed."