LEE — Neither program is far removed from the pinnacle of Western Massachusetts golf, but things do certainly look a lot different at Hoosac Valley and Lee.
The Hurricanes — still two-time defending Western Mass. Division II champions from 2018 and 2019 — defeated Lee in a weather-shortened match at Greenock Country Club on Wednesday. Hoosac won 158-163, after lightning was spotted and the horn sounded to call golfers in. The match was contested over six holes.
The Wildcats took home a 2018 sectional crown in Division III. Both programs are now under new leadership at the head coach position, and both feature young rosters of enthusiastic golfers.
Lee Golf hosts Hoosac Valley at Greenock
Hoosac Valley defeated Lee in a golf match at Greenock Country Club on Wednesday.
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Hoosac Valley junior Ian Cappiello was medalist, shooting a 26 through six holes on Lee’s home course.
“It’s been good so far. We’re a young team, so that is tough sometimes, but we’ve had a good year so far,” said Cappiello. “Coach Alibozek has been awesome, and we’re 3-1. They haven’t always been pretty, but we’ve been getting the job done. That’s all that matters.”
Chad Alibozek is the new head coach of the Hurricanes, taking over after Jason Sniezek’s retirement following 22 seasons at the helm. Alibozek is an accomplished amateur player who won a MASCAC individual and team title at Salem State.
“It’s interesting. We’ve got a lot of young guys, so a lot of learning the basics. I’ve been involved with some teaching before, doing some PGA stuff down in Florida,” said the first-year coach, “but we’re working on fundamentals, little things. We’re backtracking a little bit to get everybody up to par on learning the game. Which is great.”
The Hurricanes scored a 42 from Gabe Bishop and a 43 from Zach Mungeon. Mike Szabo’s 47 rounded out the visitors’ total.
“We’ve been playing pretty well. I’m proud of our guys, a lot of young guys, couple seventh graders,” said Cappiello, who was a young alternate on those two Western Mass. champions. “That’s always been what’s pushed me. Not being able to play in Western Mass. has pushed me to want to do that with this team. I want my own experience of leading this team there.”
Lee was led by John Brighenti’s 32. David Carlino finished with 41 and Jack Boden tailing at 42. Nathan Terry’s 48 was the final tallied score.
Lee’s Kevin Chen and Hoosac’s Kale Kondel also competed on Wednesday.
It’s been a slow build for the Wildcats after coach Shane Sullivan wasn’t initially sure he’d have enough golfers to fill out a team. Lee had a handful of players opt to try out for different sports, opening the door for a significant youth movement.
“At the start of the season I was excited for a full year. ... They all have other things going on, and it’s understandable. But we have a good contingent of young players coming up,” said Sullivan, who took over the program from Matt Carlino in 2019. “We started out with four young guys, now I’ve got two more. So a team of six, all middle schoolers, but it’s nice.
Greenock participated in a PGA Junior League this summer, and sent a team out to Saratoga with the Country Club of Pittsfield, and came back runners-up.
“They get to have a lot of experience, and I think it’s going to pay off for them,” said Sullivan. “They’re having a good time, it’s a fun team to coach. We’ve been doing a lot of practice, and they’ve been improving a lot.”
Just a week or two into the season, both teams are starting to get the hang of varsity golf, and scores are sure to start dropping as the temperature does.
“I’m seeing strides. Just learning how to hit basic pitch shots, how to make steady contact,” said Alibozek. “It’s a young team with very little experience except for Ian, so any progress is great. The kids get excited about progress, and it’s cool for me to see too.”