By BOB YORK
Nick Albertson saw something this spring that he thought he’d never see again. Then, the veteran Deerfield Academy golf coach was forced to rub his eyes in disbelief when he saw something he thought he’d never see, period.
With the exception of a hole-in-one, Albertson probably saw just about everything good that a golf coach could see in a single season – including a once- or twice-in-a-lifetime experience. One thing the veteran mentor did not see much of this spring were losses, as his golfers produced a 22-1 record and hauled away a pair of gold-plated tournament trophies as well.
The Big Green, which always seems to pick up its game when there is hardware to be had, captured both the Andover Invitational Golf Tournament at Newport (R.I) Country Club, and the Kingswood-Oxford Invitational Tournament, which is annually hosted at Oak Ridge Golf Club in Feeding Hills.
This season marked the fifth time since the year 2000 that Deerfield golfers have bested the 23-team field to lay claim to the Western New England Championship, with previous wins coming in 2000, 2006, 2008 and 2010. This spring’s trophy has to come with an asterisk, however, because what Albertson witnessed as he sat in the clubhouse and watched the final scores being posted was something he never anticipated, not even in his wildest dreams.
It wasn’t so much Deerfield’s 379 that topped the charts, considering it posted a mark of 387 the year before, and wound up third in the final standings. What amazed the Big Green mentor was the margin of victory.
“We finished 21 strokes in front of two-time defending champion Avon Old Farms,” pointed out Albertson, who quickly added, “that’s the biggest margin of victory I’ve ever seen in a prep school golf tournament. Prior to this, the biggest margin of victory I can ever remember at the Kingswood tournament was 10 shots. But 21, wow … we were just totally dominant out there that day.”
In the end, the Big Green could have mailed their score in, as it easily withstood all comers, including silver-medalist, Avon (400). Host Kingswood-Oxford (401) wound up third, while Taft, the team responsible for Deerfield’s lone blemish this spring, was fourth at 402.
“Everyone was on their game that day,” said Albertson of the Kingswood win, “and they had to be. In some tournaments you play five guys and knock off the worst score, so somebody can have an off day and it won’t hurt you. At the Kingswood tournament, you play five and count all five scores, and, like I said, everybody was on their game.”
David Buoymaster (13) finished the day one stroke off the medalist honors with a 74, to secure a second-place finish for the Big Green. You could have then thrown a blanket over the remainder of the Deerfield clan. Brandon Wu (15), whom Albertson considers to be one of the rising prep school golf stars in the country and who led Deerfield in individual match average this spring with a 37.36 mark per nine holes, carded a 75, as did Sam Lafferty. James Park (13), who was this year’s recipient of the Jerry Daly ’72 Award, entered the clubhouse with a 76, while Joshua Kim (14) finished off the winning combination with a 79.
As for the tourney in Newport, the Big Green once again stormed the beaches there and took no prisoners. It marked the third consecutive year that Deerfield has won this tourney and the fourth time it has bested its eight-team field during the six years it has been competing there.
The thing that caught Albertson’s eye in that victory wasn’t the trophy, but rather the score that won it.
“We won the tourney by setting a new record for team scoring,” explained Albertson. “We finished with a 299, which beat the old record of 303 by four strokes, which we set back in 2008. And to be honest, I figured that mark of 303 would stand for quite some time … guess I was wrong.”
Leading the charge in Newport were Buoymaster and Lafferty, who both carded 73s to finish one stoke off earning medalist laurels. The Big Green pace setters also allowed Deerfield to maintain a safe distance from the other seven teams in the field, as Andover placed second (309) 10 shots out, while Taft wound up in third place with a 316. Hotchkiss and Salisbury tied for fourth at 322.
“Considering the amount of experience we had on this team, we set some pretty high expectations and we met them all and in all honesty, I don’t think we could have accomplished more than we did accomplish this year,” said Albertson, who admitted that this spring’s version of Deerfield golf “was among the very best teams we’ve ever had here.”
And there should be plenty more good golf to come from the Big Green next spring as three of the team’s top five golfers return to the fold. That trio includes elected co-captains Kim and Lafferty, as well as Wu.
“And we should also have at least a couple of new faces on next year’s team who know how to swing a golf club,” said Albertson.