copyright the Chronicle 5-17-2013
NEWPORT — The game of golf is a lesson in civility and humility. It is a game that rewards patience, discourages rashness and fosters fellowship.
“That’s what’s so awesome and so awful about golf,” Northfield’s Mike Passalacqua said. “One day you shoot a great game and the next time you can’t get the ball to go anywhere you want it to. How you play is always on you.”
The Chronicle had the opportunity to spend the morning with a foursome composed of Lake Region’s Dustin Bodette, Northfield’s Mike Passalacqua, St. Johnsbury Academy’s Jack O’Neill and Peoples’ Academy Keirnan Nicholls as the foursome made the rounds of the Newport Country Club during the thirty-fourth annual North Country Invitational Golf Tournament on Thursday, May 17.
To most of the foursome the experience at the Newport course was a new experience. As such, the aspect of familiarity with the course certainly wasn’t in anyone’s favor. Even if it was, however, golf is a game of variables, some of which were completely out of the players’ control.
“It’s a pretty vicious wind,” Bodette admitted as strong gusts blew in from the south and west. “That’s why it’s important to get out on the range and hit the greens before a tournament. It’s a must to see how you’re going to play that day.”
Not knowing the layout of the course involves best-guess estimates on distances as well as a healthy dose of orienteering as the players navigate the course. Knowing what to expect matters a great deal in both club selection and the amount of force applied to each stroke.
“I’m used to slower greens at the Orleans Country Club,” Bodette said of the Lake Region golf team’s home course. “I know how hard I need to putt.”
“I’m seeing a break but there doesn’t seem to be one,” O’Neill said of the putting greens. “So I need to adjust how I approach them.”
The North Country Invitational also requires players to play through a full 18 holes, unlike traditional matches that only involve nine-hole play. Given that fact having a foursome composed of like-minded and comparably skilled players matters more than most tournaments.
“You’re going to be with these guys for the next four hours so it helps if you like the group you’re in,” Bodette said.
Sportsmanship is an under appreciated element of tournament level golf, Passalacqua said. While considered bad form to gloat over a good shot, it is equally undesirable to fuss and fume over bad ones.
“You just need to pick up and move on,” Passalacqua said.
Both Bodette and Passalacqua come from team sports backgrounds. Bodette played the last three years on the Lake Region Rangers baseball team while Passalacqua is a member of the Northfield Raiders’ hockey team.
“It’s a team sport that isn’t,” Passalacqua said. “On a team you can count on the other players making up for mistakes on your part. In golf it’s all on you.”
Golf, he said, is about challenging yourself to play up to your own personal standard. It’s also about playing to your strengths and recognizing your weaknesses.
“You know how you usually play and every time you go out you want to play to your ability,” Passalacqua said. “You could be playing with someone whose average game is seven strokes better than yours. You know can’t beat him but you do know how well you can play and try to play better than that.”
Bodette struggled through the first few holes before recognizing a valuable lesson — there is such a thing as trying too hard. Once he realized that simple fact and returned to playing the game because he enjoys it his performance improved.
“I was just terrible at the beginning,” Bodette said. “When I just started playing the game, I started to play better. You can’t let it get in your head.”
The North Country Invitational attracted students from 15 Vermont high schools from Division I, Division II and Division III. The Division I title was claimed by Essex, shooting a combined 321, behind the play of Connor Calhoun and Ryan Manley. Calhoun would earn first medalist honors shooting a two over par 74 while Manley tied for third with a six over par 78 on the day.
The disqualification of Evan Clarke led to an incomplete score for the host North Country Falcons. Cody Wright led the Falcons with a 34 over par 106 on the day while Isaiah Carbonneau finished two strokes back at 108.
Lyndon Institute’s Nick Murphy’s eight over par 80 topped the rankings and earned him fifth medalist honors. LI would also claim the DII title with a combined 344 on the day. The Lake Region Rangers seventh on the day with a combined score of 441. Carl Oberg led all Rangers with a 22 over par 94 while Bodette would finish with a score of 114.
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