Golf: Powerhouse Bow, newcomers Merrimack Valley are making an impression in D-II

By DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 09-20-2023 12:45 AM

One program has been a power for the past decade, the other just reinstated its varsity program. Regardless of where they’ve been, both the Bow Falcons and Merrimack Valley Pride are near the top of the Division II golf standings and maintained their spots following strong outings on Tuesday at Loudon Country Club.

Bow displayed its depth, carding a 200 to win the four-team meet, while host MV finished second with 213, led by Andrew Suprenant’s medalist round of 35. 

Pembroke (230) and Trinity (232) rounded out the team scores.

The Falcons (14-1) and Pride (13-5) are both in the top five of the D-II standings, well above the cut of eight teams that will compete for the D-II team championships at Breakfast Hill Golf Club in Greenland on Oct. 10. 

For defending champions Bow, depth and consistency are key, and head coach Matt Davis is pleased with how the Falcons are progressing.

“I think we’re in a really good place,” Davis said. “I feel really confident in our top three guys. We’re starting to get a couple of guys in that No. 4 and No. 5 spot who have continued to drop their scores. Six, seven and eight have definitely contributed as well on days we’ve needed it.”

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Junior Owen Webber (38) led the Falcons on Tuesday, while senior Billy Smethurst (40) and junior Andre Contreras (40) also had solid rounds.

Webber has been one of Bow’s top three all season, but Smethurst is typically the team’s No. 4 golfer, while Contreras was near the bottom of the varsity lineup.

“Andre has been the real turnaround player,” Davis said. “(Last year) he consistently shot high 40s, low 50s. We worked on some stuff earlier this season. We’re starting to see (low 40s) from him more consistently now. You can see the confidence in his game.” 

Sean Guerrette (41) and Jacob Gancarz (41) rounded out the Falcons’ scorers, while Dalton Gordon (41), Mike Kingsbury (42), Matt Lauren (46) and Isaak Davis (49) joined Surprenant in MV’s scoring effort.

Cam Plumb (44), Evan Purtell (44), Colby Pope (46), Alex Sexton (48) and Zac Bemis (48) were the scoring golfers for Pembroke (6-12). Sam Maurice (43) led Trinity (2-9).

While it's reasonable to expect Bow to be near the top every season (the Falcons have won nine championships in the last 11 years), the outlook for the Pride – which hasn’t had a varsity golf program since 2016 – was unclear.

MV head coach Joe Dougherty was a student at Merrimack Valley and a member of the last varsity team ta. When returned to work at MVHS two years ago, he wanted to bring the program back. After one JV season in 2022, the Pride are already making a name for themselves among the best in D-II.

“As long as the (student) interest was there, we had full support from (MVHS athletic director) Kenny Edwards, the staff and the student body,” Dougherty said. “We’re lucky because of that. It’s been a little bit of an adaptation period, getting used to competitive golf, but overall it’s been positive.”

When the Pride took the links on Aug. 29 at Loudon CC for MV’s first match, the Pride finished second in a four-team meet, securing the first varsity wins for the program since 2014. MV went winless in 2015 and 2016.

It starts with Surprenant, a senior who finished fifth individually in D-II in 2022 and has been the medalist in four of the Pride’s six matches so far. He competed in the New Hampshire State Amateur Championship this past summer and is in the hunt for an individual crown.

“It starts with his knowledge on the course,” Dougherty said. “He’s good at knowing when to take risks and when to play more conservatively. His skill level, I haven’t seen anything like it, but he’s a very smart player. It’s 90% mental and he’s figured that out at a young age. …He had high expectations of himself, I had expectations for him as his coach, and he’s gone above and beyond. To have a new program and have a player like Andrew, it really motivates the other guys and raises the bar. We’re proud of him and lucky to have him.”

Davis, a seven-year head coach for Bow with several championship titles to his name, knows the NHIAA golf community well, and Merrimack Valley has made a positive impression quickly.

“What (Dougherty) has done is pretty remarkable,” Davis said. “There’s a lot of interest (in the program) and those kids have been playing pretty well.”

While it’s hard to tell where a program will end up in it’s inaugural season, Dougherty has always had faith in his squad.

“I’d like to call it a pleasant surprise, but I knew we had a competitive team to start the year,” Dougherty said. “We wanted to be competitive and win some matches. We’ve made a statement that we can compete against some of these good teams. It’s been amazing to prove that to ourselves.”

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