One week after setting the school record for regular season wins (13), winning the Southern Division and earning a place in the conference championship, Indian River’s golf team found themselves on the proverbial long ride home for the second straight year, following a 174-185 loss to the Henlopen Champion Dover Senators at Baywood Greens in Longneck on May 19.
Windy conditions made it tough for both teams to play their best. But in the end, Dover had better course management and was more consistent on the tough front nine.
Dover coach Dale Donaway mentioned that, for his team to win, they’d have to bunch a few golfers in the low 40s — mission accomplished.
Matt Hall, and Patrick and Ryan Malloy, along with Indian River’s second-team All-Conference selection, Matt Binsted, hit 42. But the Indians couldn’t close the gap.
Dan Elliott followed up with a 46, Justin Albright 48, Richard Webster 49, and Billy Powell shot a 50.
“Baywood Greens has one of the toughest front nines in the state, so it helps if you can bunch a couple golfers in the low 40s,” Donaway said.
Head coach Neal Beahan noted that his players felt confident heading into the match and were well prepared after a good week of practice, but they couldn’t get over the hump.
“As a team, we were well prepared. But, individually, we weren’t as good,” Beahan said.
“On the bus ride back, the guys found excuses why they didn’t play well,” he noted, alluding to the weather. “And I wish they could’ve internalized it a bit more because it’s only so often that you have an opportunity to go over the edge and do something great.”
“Despite the loss, I have to say that I’m proud of the guys. Dover is used to being good, and this match was like David versus Goliath and Goliath won. The better team won,” Beahan said of Dover, which was 13-2 overall, 13-0 in the conference.
Dover’s two losses were to No. 1 Salesianum and No. 2 St. Marks. They lost both matches by a combined 11 strokes (eight and three, respectively).
Though Indian River couldn’t beat the Northern Conference for the second straight year, Beahan’s squad did improve their seeding for the conference and state tournaments.
Indian River bumped up a notch from last year’s finish, to fourth in this year’s conference tournament at the Mapledale Country Club.
Dover placed first at their home course, while Caesar Rodney earned second and Sussex Tech reeled in third.
Binsted played in the second-to-last group, playing with other top players, and shot an 83. He earned fifth medalist honors, marking an important benchmark, according to Beahan.
“Matt has really come of age,” Beahan said. “When he joined the team he wasn’t a great athlete but he learned the short game-out. He learned how to chip and putt, instead of trying to hit great tee shots, and it’s worked to his advantage. He knows his game better. And he knows what he didn’t do well in the match and works on it the next day in practice. He really works at the game hard, understands the strategy of the game and has a great work ethic.”
Dover’s only girls player, Alyssa Durney, shot a 78 for the conference tournament and the second lowest total for the back nine, with a 38 (six strokes better than her season average over seven matches).
Indian River’s fourth-place finish gave them the No. 10 seed at this year’s state tournament, which is one slot better than last year’s No. 11 seed.
“I wanted to break the top 10 this year and we did,” Beahan said. “We can improve, but we have to execute under pressure.”
Donaway mentioned that his players didn’t execute under pressure against Salesianum and St. Mark’s this year but noted that it helped them in the long run.
“They knew why they blew it because they didn’t make their putts,” he said.