Pictured: Luke Stennett, left, and Colin Murphy were both happy for each other Tuesday at Stanley Golf Course. The friends shot 69 to share the Shoreline championship. (Photo by Paul Augeri)
By Paul Augeri
NEW BRITAIN – Coginchaug senior Colin Murphy caught the eye of Portland sophomore Luke Stennett near the scorer’s tent at Stanley Golf Course. Good friends on and off the links, they nodded at each other, as if to say, “well done.”
It’s only fitting then, that the top two players this season in the Shoreline Conference shared the championship on Tuesday. Murphy and Stennett shot 2-under-par 69 in perfect conditions – Murphy was steady throughout his 18, while Stennett produced birdies on two of his last three holes and went 4 under on the back nine — to become the Shoreline’s first co-medalists in recent memory.
“I’m so happy for Luke. I think we both deserved it,” Murphy said. “We just both played really good. I could have made a few more putts, but honestly we both deserved it. It just couldn’t have gone any better.”
“I feel very, very … I don’t think I can put together any words to describe this,” said Stennett,” because me and Colin are great friends and we’re always neck and neck in competitions. I just wanted want to put on a show today.”
Luke Karpiej of Hale-Ray, last year’s Shoreline champion with a 4-over 75, matched that score to finish third. Portland’s Quinn Lapinski with a 76 and Cromwell’s Jack Wise with a 77 rounded out the top five. Portland’s Joe LaMalfa was the only other player to break 80, coming in with a 79.
With the Highlanders putting three players in the top six, they easily outscored their competition to win the team championship for the second straight year. Portland finished 28 strokes ahead of runner-up Morgan. Cromwell was third (342).
“I’m so excited for the team,” said Stennett, who was the 2021 runner-up to Karpiej. “They earned it, they worked so hard for it. I couldn’t be prouder to be on a team with these guys. We kept growing as a team this year, got more connected and started playing better golf as the year went on.”
Murphy, the lone senior on Coginchaug’s roster, and Stennett struggled out of the gate on Stanley’s white course. Murphy made bogey on two of his first four holes, while Stennett found himself 3 over through eight.
“I knew I could stay in it, I just needed to make some shots and hit the ball solid,” said Murphy, who will continue his career at Assumption. “I chipped in for birdie at No. 5. At that point I knew it was my day and I knew I had confidence going to the back nine.”
With his round on the verge of blowing up, Stennett had a little chat with himself.
“I said, ‘Let’s have fun.’ From there,” he said, “I sort of just played my game, and I played amazing.”
Stennett made birdie-4 on the 460-yard ninth hole to make the turn at 2 over. Continuing on to Stanley’s red course, he made par at No. 10, birdie at the par-3 11th, and then consecutive pars before another birdie on the 345-yard 15th hole.
Murphy also made birdie at No. 14 after sticking a wedge from 70 yards to within five feet of the cup to get to 2 under.
“I didn’t know the scores at the turn, I just knew Luke was going to be right there with me,” Murphy said. “I knew I had to make something happen. Coming in, I really had to grind. At 16 I had to make like an 8-footer for par. On 17 I had a pretty long two-putt for par, and on 18 I had to get up and down from 50 yards.”
Stennett made par at No. 14 before using another long drive to set up for birdie at the par-5 16th. After a par at the 150-yard 17th, he made birdie at 18.
“I made a lot of mid putts from about 20 feet,” he said. “The fact that I came back from that start made me really happy. I can grow from that. I knew my team would do good. I just had to put my number up there and they would have my back.”
Like Murphy, Stennett plays in junior Challenge Cup events throughout the year. Last weekend, he shot 67-65 at Wintonbury Hills in Bloomfield to win the 36-hole event.
“Mainly my mindset today was ‘let’s keep it going, keep trekking along, keep confident, don’t be satisfied,’” he said.
The season continues for Murphy, Stennett and most other Shoreline golfers in two weeks, when the CIAC Division III tournament will be played at Fairview Farms in Harwinton. The high school seasons wraps up with the State Open on June 11 at Black Hall Club in Old Lyme.
“At the beginning of the year I made it my goal to win the Shoreline Conference and the state championship,” said Murphy, who began playing the game just four years ago. “We’ll just see how my hard work will pay off in the long run.”
MORE TO COME…