GOLF

ConVal’s ‘1-2 punch’ isn’t done with golf yet

ConVal golfers Ben Wescott and Sam Cody had their sights set high coming into their senior season – to finish number one and two in the state. They positioned themselves well throughout the season and gave themselves the chance to do just that at the state championship. The duo strode onto Concord’s Beaver Meadow Golf Course with confidence, knowing that they had already placed themselves in the ranks of the state’s elite golfers, and set out to fulfill what seemed to be their destiny.

In the first round, Wescott shot well. “I was happy with a 77,” Wescott said, “only four shots back.” That finish placed him near the top of the leaderboard and earned him the right to play the final round in the last group – the best of the best. The dream was still alive.

Cody, however, ran into trouble early. “It was the first five holes. The first five holes were the toughest,” Cody said. After those early stumbles, he was able to settle down and play quite well – in fact, he placed himself in the second-to-last group for the final round, just behind the leaders of the pack. The chances of a one-two finish were slim, but there was still hope.

When the pair got to the final round, though, that youthful dream of a shared glory started to decay. “Sam made the turn at about four over,”ConVal golf coach Don Jalbert said, “and then the back just jumped up and bit him and he couldn’t get back on track. If you’ve played the game you know what I’m talking about. The wheels fall off and sometimes, it’s tough to get them back.”

Cody himself put it simpler: “I just blew up that day.”

While his running mate was struggling to salvage his round, Wescott was playing better than he could have hoped. “I started off really well. I parred the first five holes,” Wescott said. As well as he was playing, that wasn’t good enough for the lead, as the other members of his group were annihilating all comers.

“Connor Greenleaf from Windham and Tom Hixon from Portsmouth – they’re the class of the division,” Jalbert said, “and they are just that good. Fun to watch.”

Even Wescott had to be impressed by the level of competition he was facing. “(Greenleaf) was just really consistent, he didn’t really miss shots. He had, I think, five birdies on the front nine and two bogeys and he finished even on the back. So he was just really consistent and didn’t have any mistakes.”

Wescott hit his first speed bump on the eighth hole, triple-bogeying it, while Greenleaf and Hickson continued plugging away virtually mistake-free. “I just tried to stay positive,” Wescott said. “After I triple-bogeyed I said ‘Okay, there’s still a lot of golf to play. I can still make some birdies and get some shots back.’ But the way Connor and Tom Hixon were playing, I pretty much had no chance to try and win it.”

Another triple bogey on hole 16 was the nail in the coffin for Wescott, and he went on to finish in sixth, with Greenleaf and Hixon taking those top two spots that the ConVal boys had dreamed of. Cody was a bit further down the leaderboard, but still finished at an impressive 12th overall.

“To go into that tournament and say that we want to be one and two is good,” Jalbert said. “It raises the bar for them, but again, there were a couple of guys that were just head and shoulders better, at least at this stage of their career, than our guys and the rest of the field.”

And just like that, these two promising high school golf careers were over, ended by a couple of lights-out rounds by the boys from Windham and Portsmouth and a few problematic holes. Their ConVal careers may be over, but both plan to pursue golf as a career, one way or the other. Wescott will attend Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. next year, where he’ll enroll in a professional golfers management program. He hopes to one day work as a head professional at a golf course or work for a club manufacturer like Titleist.

“(Wescott)’s a great student and he’s going to do well in college,” Jalbert said. “If he becomes a club pro – if he goes that direction – he’s going to be that guy that everyone wants to take lessons from. He’s just a great kid and his future is really, really bright.”

Cody isn’t going to let a couple of bad rounds get in the way of his goal of golfing at an elite level. “Even now, I’m still going to the golf course,” Cody said. “I’m just going to keep working on it. My putting was my biggest problem so I just have to fix that.” He plans to play in qualifying tournaments over the summer and hop on a sponsored tour of some sort.

“(Cody)’s a great kid,” Jalbert said. “It’s nothing but upside. Five years from now, ten years from now, we’re going to look back and say ‘Hey, that was a ConVal golfer back in 2013 and they’ve done well for themselves.’ As a coach and as a teacher, that’s what I’m looking for. Scores are great, I envy the scores, but the bigger picture is so much more.”

Ultimately, the pair’s tough finish at the state championships was just one in a series of moments that, given a little time to heal, they can look back on with a smile. The two reminisced about their successful careers on the eve of the ConVal golf banquet last week, sharing some of their favorite memories from their four years as Cougar golfers.

“I had one match, it was at Crotched Mountain,” Cody said. “I think we were playing Bishop Brady and Oyster River, and I started off with a double bogey on the first hole. I thought to myself ‘Oh no, this is not the right way to start.’ I came back with a birdie, a par and an eagle and then another birdie and I finished the round two under par. That was definitely the highlight of my high school golf career.”

Wescott’s favorite memory was one of his last matches of his senior season. “The last match – our senior match – I shot even par, and I was thinking ‘That’s good way to go out with a bang and play well,’ so I was excited about that.”

Not restricted by the myopia of youth, Jalbert saw right to the heart of it as he reflected on the two intertwined careers. “Ben and Sam have been leaders for the last two years, even as juniors, on the course and off the course they were the leaders. The scores are – in my heart and in my mind – they’re second to two great kids that gave ConVal all that they could give them. How do you walk away feeling anything but that they played their hearts out?!”

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