By BOB YORK–
Over the past decade or so, Nick Albertson’s Deerfield Academy golf teams have been likened to a group of magicians: They turn tin cups into gold medals.
The Big Green has accomplished this stunt once this spring already, when it captured the Newport (R.I.) Invitational title for the third consecutive year and the fourth time in the six years it has been competing in the tourney. Its second Magical Mystery Tour of the season is scheduled for Wednesday, when it travels to the Oak Ridge Golf Course in Agawam to compete in the Kingswood-Oxford Invitational Tournament.
“A lot of the kids call it the New England Championship,” explained Albertson, whose charges have won this event four times as well, dating back to the spring of 2000. “Despite the fact that a total of 23 teams annually compete in this tourney, geographically speaking, it’s more of a Western New England Championship.”
Oddly enough, all four of Deerfield’s Kingswood crowns have come during even-numbered years – 2000, 2006, 2008 and 2010 – but you can still count on the Big Green showing up Wednesday – just in case.
“After a stretch of winning three titles in five years, I think it’s time we got back to our winning ways,” said Albertson, whose golfers made it to the Kingswood podium the past two years, but got no higher than the low row, having to settle for bronze medals on both occasions. “What I remember most about the past two tournaments down there is the fact that we finished last year’s tournament (387) 17 strokes ahead of our score the year before,” added the Big Green mentor, “and we still finished third.
“As I remember, last year was one of the lowest scoring Kingswood tournaments in quite some time,” said Albertson. “Everybody was on their A game that day,” including Avon, which won with a score of 380 … the lowest winning score since a 375 stood up at the 2004 tournament.
Deerfield will enter Wednesday’s showdown as one of the favorites, along with two-time defending champion Avon, Westminster and Taft. And all four teams have faced each other previously this season. The Big Green will haul a 22-1 record into the fray, having already bested Avon, 185-195, and Westminster, 200-214. Taft, meanwhile, owns the lone blemish on the Big Green’s scorecard, having pinned a 389-398 setback on it back in April. Deerfield evened the score four days later, however, as Taft was one of the seven teams Deerfield had to step over to earn its Newport title.
The Big Green, which also beat the likes of Andover, Exeter, Hotchkiss, Salisbury, Tabor and Loomis when it stormed the Rhode Island seashore that day, did something during the tourney that, quite frankly, Albertson never thought he would see again. Deerfield won the crown by establishing a new record for team scoring: 299.
“We owned the previous record of 303, which we set back in 2008,” said Albertson, “and I figured that mark would stand for quite some time, but we beat it by four strokes … I guess I was wrong on that one.”
Deerfield’s Fab Five led the charge into the Newport record books as David Buoymaster (’13) and Sam Lafferty (’14) both finished one stoke off the medalist honors with 73s. Brandon Wu (’15) posted a 75, while James Park (’13) and Joshua Kim (’14) carded a 78 and 80 respectively.
Park, who will be taking his golfing talents to Yale in the fall, will be looking to wrap up his prep career on a high note and on familiar territory. As a sophomore, Park finished fifth in a field of 115 golfers at Kingswood with a score of 75, while he edged up to fourth last year with a round of 72.
Kim, meanwhile, snuck into the top 10 as well last year, when he placed ninth with a 73. His previous Kingswood appearance saw him card a 76 to wind up sixth. Cam O’Connell (’13), Dan Blohm (’13), and Fritz Bowen (’13) supplied the depth this season.