Pictured: Portland’s Shoreline championship team, left to right: Quinn Lapinski, Ben Lucas, Nick Matera, Mason Piersall, Luke Stennett and coach Joe Santavenere.
By Paul Augeri
Luke Karpiej experimented with a swing change during the last year to sharpen his path to the ball, but after much trial and error, the changes just didn’t work for him.
The Hale-Ray junior reverted to his original swing in time for the high school golf season, and what he found out, especially on Tuesday, was that the old way was the best way for him to play the game.
Karpiej won medalist honors at the Shoreline Conference championship tournament with a 4-over 75 at New Britain’s Stanley Golf Course, finishing one stroke ahead of his good friend from Portland, freshman Luke Stennett.
Stennett and the Highlanders won the team title, the school’s first since 2016, with a score of 330. Portland was the Shoreline’s best and deepest team during the season and it showed at Stanley as the Highlanders were 23 shots ahead of runner-up Coginchaug.
“I got out to a rough start at the beginning of the year, but I played better as the year went along,” said Karpiej (pronounced KARPY). “The change didn’t quite fit how my body moves. When I went back to the original swing it kind of fixed everything. Once I did that it kind of helped me play better. I hit the ball with much more confidence.”
Only three others broke 80, and all shot 78 to tie for third – sophomore Jack Wise of Cromwell, junior Dakota Cooper of North Branford and freshman Quinn Lapinski of Portland.
Coginchaug’s Colin Murphy shot 80 and was joined in the top 10 by Morgan’s Jason Cohen (83), North Branford’s Jack O’Brien (83), Patrick Flanagan of Old Lyme (84) and Jayson Penney of Coginchaug (84).
Karpiej played Stanley’s par-5s under par, which he said helped him recover from a double bogey early in the round. The field played from Stanley’s red and white layouts. He had three birdies on the day.
“Since the double came early I knew I had a long way to go and knew I could overcome it,” he said. “Coming down the stretch the nerves got a little tough, but I dealt with them well.”
Karpiej playfully said he was happy to finish ahead of Stennett, and Stennett said he was happy to see his friend win.
“We have been going back and forth for years and it’s always fun playing each other,” said Stennett, who played in the group behind Karpiej’s. “He played good golf and deserved the title.”
Stennett said he was pleased with his overall play.
“I was hitting it solid off the tee,” he said. “Every time I had a wedge in my hands I was able to execute it and get it close. My irons on the front were going a little left and right, and I just wasn’t able to get up and down. But the back nine, I was hitting my irons with more confidence and playing my game. I just missed a few close putts.”
Stennett and Lapinski were joined in the top 20 by senior teammates Ben Lucas (86, T-13) and Nick Matera (90, 17th). Senior Mason Piersall finished T-21 with a 96, although his round did not count in the overall scoring.
“Nick had to grind it out. That was a good 90 considering where he started,” said Portland coach Joe Santavenere, who is not unfamiliar with championship-level play from his teams. The Highlanders won three CIAC Division IV titles between 2016 and 2018.
“To have both freshman in the 70s was great. I’m really proud of those guys,” Santavenere said. “You never know in a tournament. For us it was just trying to maintain the consistency. Our goal was to shoot in the 320s and we were one short of that. A couple of the guys struggled at the start but stayed with it, and that’s all I can ask for.”
- Portland 330; 2. Coginchaug 353; 3. Morgan 357, 4. North Branford 368, 5. Cromwell 370, 6. Old Saybrook 382, 7. Old Lyme 387, 8. Haddam-Killingworth 399, 9. Hale-Ray 419.
Top 20 Individuals
1. Luke Karpiej, Hale-Ray, 75; 2. Luke Stennett, Portland, 76; T-3. Jack Wise, Cromwell; Dakota Cooper, North Branford; Quinn Lapinski, Portland, 78; 6. Colin Murphy, Coginchaug, 80; T-7. Jason Cohen, Morgan and Jack O’Brien, North Branford, 83; T-9. Patrick Flanagan, Old Lyme and Jayson Penney, Coginchaug, 84; T-11. Drew Kulmann and Garret Brady of Old Saybrook, 85; T-13. Ben Lucas, Portland; Andrew Fleig, H-K, 86; T-15. CJ Giuliano, Morgan and RJ Albanese, Coginchaug, 89; 17. Nick Matera, Portland, 90; 18. Ryan Rozich, Cromwell, 91; Nicholas Schmidt, Morgan, 92; 20. Drew Nye, Morgan, 93.