Jay N. Miller
HINGHAM – Eric Gill had been Hingham High’s JV boys golf coach for five years, but when he was taking over the Varsity position this fall, he was replacing Dan Clune, the longtime Harbormen golf coach who had established the tradition of outstanding teams and individual players over his long career. In addition, eight players from the fine 2021 squad had graduated.
But Hingham did have seven returning veterans with solid varsity experience, and if the new coach had any questions or problems, Clune was as close as a phone call or email, and willing to offer his input.
The results so far have been fully in keeping with the history of Hingham golf, as the Harbormen are now 9-0 after their latest victory on Friday over Whitman-Hanson. Those seven veterans have formed the nucleus of a potent top eight, and the best part is that all of them are capable of surging into the top slot on any given day. When Hingham beat Pembroke, for example, junior Carson Erick carded the lowest score with a 36. But when the team defeated Plymouth South, junior JD Flynn had the best score, with a 37.
The Harbormen are led by a trio of senior captains in Connor Cummings, Bobby Peirce, and Victor San Antonio. The junior quartet of Flynn, Erick, Brad Lee and Charlie Matthews has been part of the crucial core, and sophomore Drew Golden has followed up on his stellar freshman campaign to win for the top as well. Senior Andrew Baker has been the utility man, slotting into the lineup wherever he’s needed, and maintaining the topnotch quality of play.
“It seems like every match somebody different turns in the low score,” said Gill. “JD has been our number one most of the season, but he holds that slot by maybe a tenth of a stroke. Carson has been our number two, but he’s challenging JD on every match, and who is our number one could change over the next couple weeks, when we have eight matches scheduled. That kind of competition within the team really helps us. Our top eight players really push each other. They know what those low numbers mean, and they all want to be better golfers. The truth is just that we have a lot of really good golfers, and I feel like I’m just along for the ride.”
Hingham thus far has beaten Patriot League foes Pembroke, Plymouth South, Quincy, Duxbury, Scituate, North Quincy, Plymouth North, Marshfield, and Whitman-Hanson. That win at North Quincy was quite notable, as when it was played at Presidents Golf Course, the Hingham squad achieved the incredible total team score of 204. That only means that all eight of their performers made par (34) for the nine holes.
“We believe that is the all-time low score for a Hingham High golf team,” said Gill. “And I am told, that is also a course record for Presidents, so that is a remarkable achievement for our team, and it really shows what kind of depth of talent we have this season.”
“I knew, having been JV coach for five years, that following Dan Clune was not going to be easy,” said Gill. “But he is still very much involved and has let me know I can call or email him any time I have a question. I’m not at all hesitant to go to him for advice, because I know very well how successful he has been . It has also been a big help that our three senior captains have assumed leadership roles and been very hard-working examples themselves. Those three, and our other returning varsity veterans have made this a very competitive team–with each other and with our opponents.”
There were mostly proven quantities among those returnees, but Gill still got one big surprise. Junior Brad Lee had been primarily a football player, but when the COVID-19 schedule changes that pushed football to the Fall II spring season, Lee had tried golf as a freshman and liked it immensely.
“It was a very pleasant surprise for me to see Brad on the first day of tryouts,” said Gill. “I’m sure the football coaches aren’t that happy about it, but he was a very promising golfer and he’s taken up right where he left off and improved tremendously. We hadn’t expected him back, but we are very happy to have him and he’s become a key player for us.”
“Drew Golden was in our top eight as a freshman, and putting up some pretty low numbers, maybe averaging three-over,” said Gill. “Drew has continued to improve, and as a sophomore is one of our best. Charlie Matthews, a junior, is another guy who has improved dramatically, and is putting up low numbers.”
Hingham High plays its home matches at South Shore Country Club, and the difficulty and peculiarities of that hometown course helps sharpen the Harbormen for league competition.
“South Shore is a pretty tough course,” Gill said with a laugh. “It has a lot of slightly elevated greens, and the ball can run away from you if you’re not careful. I think it is an advantage for us to play there all the time, because other teams can struggle with it, and also when we go to their home courses, often times they are easier for our guys.”
The Patriot League always seems to come down to Hingham and Duxbury, and that appears to be the way 2022 is shaking out.
“You never know what to expect until you play everybody,” Gill cautioned. “Golf is a sport where one or two players can really change a team’s success. But it has been Duxbury and Hingham battling for the top for a number of years, and that looks like the way it will go this season too. Duxbury was probably the best team we have played to this point.”
Hingham’s depth is certainly something to celebrate, but Gill isn’t just looking at that top octet as the year goes on. The tightly packed schedule could lead to burnout, and injuries can always pop up when least expected. The Harbormen, however, have the type of depth that can withstand a lot of lineup adjustment.
“The real strength of this team is that, in our nine matches so far, we’ve been able to get 15 different golfers into varsity competition,” Gill noted. “We’ve been able to get that critical varsity experience for 15 of our guys, and with 24 on our roster overall, I am determined to get all of them a taste of varsity action. Our JV team is 6-2 this season, so believe me, we have a lot of very good golfers at Hingham High. The more kids we can get into the varsity mix, the more depth it gives us as the season goes on, and the better it prepares us for the future.”