Pomperaug of Southbury has been Newtown High School’s golf team’s proverbial thorn in the side for several years. A one-stroke loss to those Panthers in their regular-season match, in Southbury, earlier this year proved to the Nighthawks that they can overcome their rivals and perhaps gave them a little extra desire to overtake the Panthers in the South-West Conference championship match.
A taste of success — nipping Pomperaug in the Coaches Cup, a two-ball event at Rock Ridge Country Club on May 27 — gives them a boost of confidence heading into the scheduled May 30 conference championship.
The Newtown duo of Vivek Tedla and Graham Hubbert shot a 33 (two under par) on their home course to nip the defending tournament champions, Pomperaug’s Mike and John VanDerLaan, who fired a 35.
The event featured ten SWC schools, and the top four — Newtown, Pomperaug, New Milford, and Joel Barlow of Redding — each had a two groupings in the tournament. Newtown also took third place as the tandem of Colin Patrick and Bubba LeBlanc had a 36 in the nine-hole event.
Seeing his golfers come out on top in the tourney was a thrill for Newtown Coach Bill Flood, who believes this success could give the Nighthawks an extra push to come out on top in the big conference match, scheduled to take place at Danbury’s Ridgewood Country Club on Friday, May 30.
“They’re human,” Flood said of the Panthers. “We beat them.”
That marked the first time in five years — regular, postseason, or in-season tournament action included — that the Hawks have found a way to defeat Pomperaug on the golf course.
“I think this has opened my kids’ eyes to winning at Ridgewood on Friday,” Flood said. “There’s an opportunity there for us.”
Flood has had confidence in his team, given its experience and depth, since before the season started. The Hawks, aside from that narrow defeat to the Panthers, have cruised to victory in every match this spring.
“We’re deeper than any team in the league,” said Flood, adding that while maybe the Hawks don’t have the best golfer in the SWC, his top four make for a formidable threat in any given match. “They’re deep, they practice, they love the game.”
Newtown planned to practice at Ridgewood on Wednesday in preparation for the match. As much as Flood knows his squad has a shot at winning the SWC title, he’s aware that “you never know on a given day.”
Last year, Pomperaug won the regular-season crown then got upset by a sharp-shooting Weston group in the conference championship match. All it takes is one red-hot day for an opposing golfer, or an off day for another golfer — even just one tough hole — to make a big difference.
“Win or lose in the conference, this team has a chance to do something really special and win the states,” said Flood, referring to the Division I state championship, scheduled to take place at Watertown’s Crestbrook Park on Monday, June 9.