LONGMEADOW, Mass. -- Though most of its members weren't around to witness it, the ascent of St. John's Prep to the top of the Massachusetts Division I golf ranks was a couple years in the making and, perhaps, a few years ahead of schedule.
In both 2008 and '09, the Eagles enjoyed a perfect regular-season slate, only to be cut short of the Division I North crown. This year would prove to be different as a fledgling St. John's Prep squad captured the 2010 state title on Tuesday with a combined team score of 298, beating second-place BC High by four strokes.
What's more is that they accomplished their ultimate goal without having a senior on the six-man squad.
"This is like a year ahead of time," Eagles head coach Larry O'Neill said. "We have two outstanding players at the top of the lineup in Nick McLaughlin, who won the state last year and apparently missed by one shot this year, and Nick Pandelena. The pressure's always on them and they both played very well. Then, we just needed two scorers out of four and we had three guys shoot 77, so that was enough."
McLaughlin, a junior, led the Eagles with a 1-over 71 and his classmate, Pandelena, was just two strokes off his pace. Brandon Bingel, Matt Bullock and Jake Danforth all carded 77 to carry the Eagles to the win.
Unlike the last two seasons, St. John's Prep entered the state final with three losses, two of which were to BC High. However, the Prep peaked when it mattered against its Catholic Conference rival.
"Everybody played well yesterday in the practice round," said McLaughlin, who was also the 2009 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Champion. "I felt like our team had a good chance if nobody put up big numbers. Everyone played solidly today, so it feels good for the team to finally get over that hurdle of getting to states. Winning this year was just a bonus.
"We had a really good team score in one of our first matches at Salem. I felt right then that we maybe had the potential. In the middle of the season, we struggled a little bit. But then with the team score at Beverly, going under 80, everybody felt confident coming in here because we were playing really well."
Jim Wronoski of Brookline High won the state's individual title with an even-par 70. McLaughlin and Joe Cooper of Wayland finished tied for second one stroke behind.
Wronoski, whose home course is Putterham Meadows in Brookline, carded six birdies en route to the personal championship.
"I think the course suited my game," the Warriors sophomore said after playing Longmeadow for the first time. "I was able to attack the pins because I think my strength is with my mid-irons."
McLaughlin, on the other hand, felt fortunate to end up at 1-over, but found solace in his team's title.
"I was kind of chopping it today. I made three bogeys and then I finally birdied 18 from the rough. I finally made a putt there; that was a good putt. On the first hole, I made another good putt. But other than that ... The game got better as it went on after I started a little bit shaky. But we won."
HOLE IN ONE
The shot of the day was registered by Billerica High's Mitch Kurker who carded his first career hole-in-one on Longmeadow's par-3 16th. Kurker played a pitching wedge to hole out from 132 yards.