Pictured: Cromwell sophomore Jack Wise shot 74 at Stanley Golf Course on Monday for a share of the CIAC Division III individual championship. (Contributed photo)
By Paul Augeri
The heat on Monday had sapped almost all of Jack Wise’s energy, but the Cromwell sophomore still had his wits and felt good when he chose his driver on the ninth tee on Stanley’s white course – Wise’s final hole of the day.
“I was pretty tired but mentally still in it, and I had to be,” he said. “I knew I had to at least have a birdie to put up a good number.”
Wise said his driver wasn’t working as well as he’s accustomed to, but he hit a good cut that took the fairway bunker on the right out of play. The par-5 ninth was playing longer than its listed 460 yards, leaving Wise 182 from the green.
He opted for a 7-iron for his approach shot.
“Earlier in the day on 15 I had about 175 yards to go and I put my 7-iron to within 18 inches,” Wise said. “It was my second birdie of the day. I was feeling good with the irons, especially the seven. I hit it a little left and it didn’t cut, so I ended up on the left side of the green pin-high and about 15-20 feet from the cup.”
Although he didn’t make the putts that would have gotten him a low round, this one was different. He looked it over with the necessary degree of confidence he needed to make it.
“The putt wasn’t uphill or anything, just a left to right break,” Wise said. “I knew I had to be outside the hole and make sure I got the right pace on the ball. ‘Get it there’ was the last thing I said to myself. I wasn’t cognizant of it at the time, but my coach said I walked it in from a foot out.”
Yes, he did.
When the putt fell for eagle, Wise put a fist pump behind it for extra measure and later found out that his 3-over 74 was good for a share of the CIAC Division III individual title with Waterford’s Danny Torres.
“At the time I had no idea where I was on board,” Wise said. “I just knew I was 5 over and an eagle would be four (strokes) better than my Shoreline (tournament) score. I thought 2 over was probably going to win it. I knew I was right there and it felt good.”
Waterford’s team already had left the course (as confirmed by The Day of New London) before all scores went up on the board.
“We hung around,” Wise said, referring to coach John Pinone and teammates Ryan Rozich (91), Dante Uccello (92) and Antonio Uccello (105). “We were in the second-to-last group to go off at 9:57 and knew it wouldn’t take long for the last group to come in. We probably waited 25 minutes for that final score to get in. There were a couple nerves of anticipation.”
Wise’s round also helped Cromwell finish in the top 10 (eighth) in the 20-team field with a score of 362. St. Joseph of Trumbull’s 324 won the team title. Morgan finished 14th and Haddam-Killingworth (17th).
Wise played the first nine (Stanley’s red course) at even-par 35 (two birdies, two bogeys). He made three straight bogeys to start his second nine, parred the 352-yard fourth hole and stumbled again with bogey-5 at Nos. 5 and 6. He settled in with consecutive pars before his finishing hole.
Wise tied for third (78) in the Shoreline tournament when it was played two weeks ago at Stanley. He said his familiarity with the 6,000-yard layout helped, although he thought the course played longer Monday. For instance, he used a 9-iron on the par-3, downhill eighth hole on the red in the conference tourney as opposed to “all of my 7” in the D-III tournament.
“The Shorelines were not the first time I had played Stanley but the first time in a year or so,” said Wise, who plays almost daily at TPC River Highlands. “I felt comfortable with the layout, especially with the red course, which fits me very well, and I felt like I had a competitive advantage because some of the kids in my (foursome) had not even heard of Stanley before Monday. I was ready for the special quirks of the course. Some of the holes we were back at least two tee boxes from where we were for the Shorelines.”
Wise’s next competitive round will come at the State Open on Saturday at Old Lyme’s Black Hall Club. He is one of several talented underclassmen, including Portland’s Luke Stennett, the Division IV champion, Shoreline champion Luke Karpiej of Hale-Ray and Coginchaug’s Colin Murphy who will grab headlines behind this golf season.
What Wise appreciated most Monday was the feeling that he played to his potential.
“I feel like I’ve always underperformed in the tournaments I’ve played in,” he said. “I’m happy with my 78 in the Shorelines and then this round. Other than a couple of holes in the middle of the round, the 18th to about the sixth or seventh, I felt like I was in great control of the ball. It feels good to post a score I know I can post, and it’s in writing.”