NAUGATUCK — This season on the links marks the end of an era for the Naugatuck golf team.
The Greyhounds will graduate one of the most talented groups of seniors in quite some time. This season also marks the end of a 22-year coaching career, as Craig Blanchard will step down as head coach of the ‘Hounds.
Naugatuck finished the season 17-7, its best record in more than 10 years. Three-year captain and senior Nick Tribanas, a 2014 All-Naugatuck Valley League pick and a two-time All-NVL Copper Division selection, led Naugy.
Seniors Brendan Waldron, Tyler Sounanthanam, Dan Capone and Tom Karas broke onto the scene with Tribanas and began the journey to bring Naugatuck golf back to prominence.
“The greatest reward as a coach is to watch the development of your players,” Blanchard said. “They come to you in their freshman year as boys and they leave as men in their senior year as much more accomplished golfers. There really is no greater reward for a coach.”
Right from the start of the season it was evident that Naugatuck had all the tools in the shed to turn around last season’s 6-15 record. Naugatuck went 9-3 in the Copper Division, finishing second behind Holy Cross (12-0).
“We were in our match with Holy Cross at Hop Brook,” Blanchard said. “We got to the ninth hole and all four Holy Cross players wound up shooting an eight on that hole, and we ended up getting edged out by a couple of strokes. Golf is such a precise game. You can hit a great shot off the tee and get on the green and then miss a few puts taking you out of a good score. We went 7-1 at Hop Brook this year but lost a few tough matches on the road by just two or three strokes.”
Naugatuck had its best showing at the NVL tournament in the last four years by finishing fifth with a 192, right behind fourth-place Sacred Heart (190).
Wolcott won the NVL tournament with Holy Cross finishing second after a disqualification. The NVL tournament at the Watertown Golf Club was shortened to nine holes due to the weather as it down poured for much of the day.
Tribanas earned All-NVL honors after leading the Greyhounds with a 42, just four strokes off the medalist.
“Nick had a great round in spite of the weather,” Blanchard said. “He birdied the 17th and had a chance at a birdie on the 18th, getting on the green in one. Then he three-putted the hole, and that’s what I mean when I said golf is such a precise game.”
Capone was the only other Greyhound to break into the 40s, shooting a solid round of 46. Sounanthanam just missed the mark, hitting a 51, with sophomore Jake Alcorace finishing with a 53 and Waldron at 54.
“I was so happy for Dan,” Blanchard added. “He’s had some real good rounds this year and then he would struggle in the next match. One time he didn’t even want to take the bus back to the school and wanted to walk home he was so disappointed. But Dan is one of the reasons why we had so much success this year. You need that solid fourth and fifth player to be competitive and he provided that for us. Brendan has been a solid 48 average golfer for us this year but the weather really did have an effect on a lot of golfers at the NVL tournament.”
Blanchard has left his mark on the Naugatuck golf program, leading the 2001 team to the Division I state tournament with All-NVL players Dave Rowe and Bob Butkus. That same year, the Greyhounds tied Wolcott for the NVL championship.