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Salo leaves lasting mark

Golf coach led Mascenic to 4 titles

  • pheasant ridge golf  club, mascenic, conant, division lll

    pheasant ridge golf club, mascenic, conant, division lll

  • pheasant ridge golf  club, mascenic, conant, division lll

    pheasant ridge golf club, mascenic, conant, division lll

  • pheasant ridge golf  club, mascenic, conant, division lll
  • pheasant ridge golf  club, mascenic, conant, division lll

Over the past seven years, Russell Salo helped transform the Mascenic golf program into a powerhouse.

While Salo will quickly give the credit to the long line of talented golfers to wear the Vikings’ polo shirts, we all know that without a good coach, talent can only go so far.

Since 2006 — Salo’s first year on the job — Mascenic has won four state championships and it should be five since the Vikings were essentially cheated out of a fifth title when rain cancelled the one-day team event and a ridiculous rule awarded the trophy to another school. The NHIAA did so despite Mascenic being one of three undefeated squads in the regular season and one that would have likely have demolished the field.

Salo also led the Vikings to a runner-up finish last year and third place in his first year.

“It was pretty special,” said Salo of his time. “We’ve got something built there that will carry on.”

But in the spring, Salo decided to park his golf cart and hang up his clipboard in favor of watching two of his sons, Damon and Cameron, compete at the collegiate level for Johnson & Wales University in Miami. Salo coached both Damon and Cameron, along with his oldest son, Curtis, at Mascenic, but now wants to spend more time as a fan, since a lot of their fall schedule is spent in the Northeast.

“It’s time to move on,” said Salo. “We had a great run. We had a great bunch of players and still do.”

And even though Salo had decided to step away, the Vikings should be just fine entering Monday’s first day of practice, even though his successor has yet to be named. They still have defending Division III individual champion Roman Ojala — who will only be a sophomore — along with junior Shane Rautiola and sophomore Adrian Somero, who scored for Mascenic in last year’s Division III team tournament when the Vikings finished second, just five strokes off the winning score of Bow.

“I don’t see any reason why they can’t be right there and maybe win it again this year,” said Salo.

So it’s not like Salo is hanging it up when all the talent is gone. He is leaving the program in great shape and better off than when he took over. It is just the right time for him to step away.

“I loved going to the golf course. I loved coaching,” said Salo. “It’s just time.”

After leading Mascenic to a 17-3 regular season record and third place at states, only four shots off the lead, in his first year, Salo’s teams dominated the Class M/Division III landscape for the remainder of his tenure.

In 2007, the Vikings were a perfect 20-0 and won the first state title in school history with a 16-stroke win. Despite a one-stroke loss to Gilford in the 2008 regular season, Mascenic went on to win a second straight title that year with a 12-stroke victory over that same Gilford team.

The Vikings would make it three straight championships in 2009, completing yet another perfect regular season with 22 wins.

If not for a heavy downpour in 2010 that saw the team event cancelled and a winner decided by the number of regular season wins, Mascenic, which was 21-0 in the regular season, could have become just the fifth program in state history to win four in a row. And I am about 99.9 percent sure they would have walked away with the championship trophy.

A win in 2010 would have deepened the team’s legacy. The Vikings went undefeated in 2011, meaning a 2010 win would have given them title No. 5 in a row, instead of just four overall. And it would have made them the first program to win five straight since the 1970s when golf was comprised of just one division.

In his final year, Salo guided Mascenic to a 21-2 mark in the regular season and finished just five shots behind Bow, which was new to D-III, in the state tournament.

Not a bad run if you ask me.

“We had some good players come through the program that are still playing today,” said Salo. “A lot of those kids were so talented. And when you have kids like that, it made my job easy.”

In just the regular season, Salo comprised a record of 142-6 with three of those losses coming in his first year. Mascenic rattled off 77 straight wins from Sept. 2008 to Sept. 2012 and that doesn’t count all those wins over individual teams during the state tournament.

Salo is the only golf coach I’ve ever known at Mascenic so it will be a little strange this year. I’m just so used to seeing him ride around Shattuck on a golf cart. But the show must go on and the Mascenic golf program will be just fine.

“It’s healthy, it’s strong and the future looks bright for Mascenic golf,” said Salo. “They’re not going to miss a beat.”

And a lot of the credit has to go to Salo, who in seven short years has helped make Mascenic golf into an opponent that nobody wants to play.

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