Returning veterans lead the way for Darien boys golf team
Coaches dream of having their top two players return for another season. And for Darien boys golf coach Tom O'Donnell, that dream is now a reality.
The fate of the 2013 campaign will likely hang on the performances of senior captain Kieran Suri and junior captain Cameron van de Graaf, who were the team's No. 1 and No. 2 players last year, respectively.
"I feel great about having the best two players from last year's team back this year," said O'Donnell, who begins his 24th season at the helm. "They're wonderful players, but they're even better people, so I feel real good about the fact that their example is not only going to help us this year but set the tone for the young kids for years to come."
Suri and Van de Graaf, whose average score hovers around 40, will shoulder the load for a team that remains largely untested. Mac Koorbusch and Andrew Morgan return this year with varsity experience, but the rest of the team is decidedly on the young side.
"I can't wait for the season ahead," said Suri, who also captained last year's squad. "We have a good freshman class this year, so those guys will probably take the spots of those seniors from last year."
Four graduating seniors from the 2012 lineup -- James Burgoyne, Jim Anderson, Kevin Steinthal, and Max Rothston -- have created a number of vacancies on the team, but O'Donnell likes what he sees in the incoming class.
"This is the most competitive the tryouts have been in at least a decade," he said. "We had a large number of players trying out and probably the best crop of incoming freshmen in recent memory. We are going to have at least seven people with serious ability to challenge for the three remaining spots on the team."
Darien posted an 11-7 record last year, which was enough to qualify for the FCIAC and State tournaments, but not quite enough to be considered upper echelon. The Wave finished fifth in the FCIAC and 18th in the Division II State Tournament. 2011 was a different story, though, when Darien lit up the FCIAC by going 17-0-1.
"If we could get back to that (2011) level of play we would obviously be delighted," Van de Graaf said. "We always feel we can beat anyone out there, but Greenwich is going to be formidable."
Suri remains optimistic.
"On any given day, anything can happen; that's the game of golf," he said.
O'Donnell echoed that sentiment.
"The undefeated 2011 team played some of their very best golf on the days of their biggest matches," O'Donnell said. "If that characteristic is hiding within this team, it is my job to uncover it."
Darien has long been a competitive force in the FCIAC and States, but claiming the crown has proved elusive. The Wave's last FCIAC championship was in 1998, and there are few people living who remember the last State championship, which was in 1932. Still, Darien has repeatedly been runners-up in both tournaments and feels that a title in either one is within their grasp.
"We've been knocking on the FCIAC door and now we're looking to kick it in," O'Donnell said.