Hunterdon Central golfers enjoy success on links

Larry Reis, boys golf coach at Hunterdon Central High School, doesn’t put too much into whether or not his teams win the matches they play this spring. Instead, he just wants them to have fun on the golf course, and the fun that the Red Devils are having is evident in their 10-0 record through Wednesday.

“We’re in the hunt and I’m happy about that,” Ries said. “I just want the kids to shoot well, whether we win or lose.”

But more often than not this season, Hunterdon Central has dominated its opponents, pleasing Ries.

Of the six players that have seen action in 2013, none has a scoring average higher than 42, and three players entered the week with identical averages. Consistency has been key for the Red Devils in the competitive Skyland Conference.

“They work as a team and the young guys are accepted,” Ries said. “It doesn’t matter what class they’re in. Everyone is just focused on the task at hand.”

Eric Mastrull leads in scoring average at 38, but Keith Noonan, Dylan Stein and James Wolfangel are all one stroke back at 39. Luke Wolklin (41) and Nick DalCortivo (42) round out the Red Devils’ lineup that has steamrolled the competition through the season’s first month.

The girls at Hunterdon Central have been enjoying similar success, rolling to a 7-3 mark through Wednesday. And if not for Montgomery and Ridge on their schedule, the Red Devils would be unbeaten just like their male classmates. All three of Hunterdon Central’s losses have come to the Skyland Conference’s top two squads (two to Ridge, one to Montgomery).

But coach Robert Nicolson believes that having those two powerhouses on the schedule has helped his very young team to be better.

“Playing Ridge and Montgomery help us a lot,” Nicolson said. “It’s great that our players can play against superstars from those schools. Those girls are very good at what they do and they’re respectful of the younger players on our squad. It definitely helps us out, because when you play with good players, you play better yourself.”

Hunterdon Central hasn’t needed much inspiration to play well this season, with a trio of captains leading the way. Junior Jess Wild, who posted the lowest score of her career Monday against Ridge, and classmate Julia Tonnesscen have been two of the stalwarts in the Red Devils’ lineup this spring, along with senior Nicole Petrocchi.

Those three players have helped close the gap between Ridge and Hunterdon Central as the season has progressed, according to Nicolson. When the two schools met in the first match of the year, Ridge emerged victorious by 23 strokes. But this past Monday, in heavy downpour and high wind, Ridge only won by seven strokes.

“They’re (Ridge) stronger (than us) but we’ve gotten better,” Nicolson said. “We don’t worry about what anyone else is doing and we are getting better. We’re going in the right direction.”

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