Newtown High School’s boys’ golf team came very close, but fell by one stroke in a May 5 visit to Pomperaug of Southbury at Heritage Village Country Club. Newtown shot a 171 and the host Panthers fired a 170 to eke out the win.
Newtown’s Bubba LeBlanc and Pomperaug’s John VanDerLaan — the top golfers for both teams — each shot a 38 at the par 36 course. Newtown’s No. 2, Colin Patrick, shot a 44, Vivek Tedla shot a 48, Josh Houle had a 47, and Graham Hubbert fired a 42.
This was a tough loss for the Nighthawks to swallow. Had they finished even with the Panthers they would have won by virtue of having the lowest individual score (Hubbert’s 42 since the 38 shot by the team leaders canceled out).
This was Newtown’s first loss of the campaign as the Nighthawks fell to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the South-West Conference. Pomperaug improved to 7-0 (6-0 in SWC play).
Newtown Coach Bill Flood said nerves seemed to hurt his team — especially on the first and ninth holes. The golfers overcame a slow start to hit the ball well throughout most of the match, only to see a win escape them.
“The ninth hole was our downfall. The ninth hole is what sealed our fate,” Flood said. “We had it in our hands and we let it slip away.”
Newtown hasn’t beaten Pomperaug in recent memory, and Flood knew his team had a great chance to top last year’s regular season conference champions given the level of talent and experience that came back to the course this spring. Heading into the match, golfers from both sides knew the chance at an unbeaten season could be on the line since the Panthers and Nighthawks have such strong squads.
“It was a tough bus ride home,” the coach said.
The match was rescheduled after being washed out by rain on April 30. Newtown would have faced the Panthers in the Woodland Invitational at Oxford Greens on May 1, but that multi-team match was rained out and won’t be rescheduled.
The Nighthawks regrouped from their first loss with a win over visiting Bunnell of Stratford, at Rock Ridge Country Club, on May 6. Newtown shot a 152 and Bunnell had a 196 at the par 35 course. LeBlanc shot a 37, Tedla and Hubbert both shot a 38, and Patrick and Houle each had a 39.
Flood is hopeful his team will ensure its first loss is it’s only defeat and turn the setback into something positive as it looks ahead to the conference championships — Newtown’s next opportunity to overcome Pomperaug — to be held at Danbury’s Ridgewood Country Club.
“It’ll put a little fire under my guys for Ridgewood,” Flood anticipates.
Of course, the Panthers stand to have something to prove, too, having been upset by Weston in the championship match last year.