Notre Dame High boys’ golf team making strides with solid nucleus

April 26, 2024 at 7:00 a.m.
The Notre Dame High golf team has developed a good mixture of young players and seniors and look to have a strong showing at the May 3 Mercer County Tournament. Courtesy photo
The Notre Dame High golf team has developed a good mixture of young players and seniors and look to have a strong showing at the May 3 Mercer County Tournament. Courtesy photo

By RICH FISHER
Contributing Editor

Slowly but surely, Lawrenceville’s Notre Dame High golf team has worked its way back into the mix of top teams in Mercer County.

Asked where he feels his team could finish in this year’s Mercer County Tournament on May 3, fourth-year coach Adam Lyons said, “We should be top three. Princeton’s really the only team that should have a chance of beating us. I don’t typically always play my starters, they only get into certain matches based on the time frame, but my top six kids can play with anybody in our section.”

Lyons, a Class A PGA Professional, is general manager of Cranbury Golf Club, West Windsor, where the Irish play their home matches. He took over the program in 2021 and guided ND to an 11-3 record after it went 2-8 in 2019 (there was no season in 2020 due to COVID).

Notre Dame went a combined 14-9 the previous two seasons and were 6-3 entering an Apr. 25 match with Lawrence. ND’s setbacks were close – losing by four strokes to Hopewell, eight to Princeton and five to Allentown. The combined mark of those three was 31-3 as of Apr. 24. 

“It was a tough loss to Hopewell at the beginning of the season,” Lyons said. “We kind of glued a little better since then.”

It has been a work in progress, as the Irish had to survive some key personnel losses.

“We’ve been building pretty nicely over the last few years and the kids have gotten better,” Lyons said. “I lost some kids who went down to Florida to play, but I have a good core. I’ve had my seniors since their freshman year. Some of them couldn’t break 50 as freshmen and now they’re shooting in the 30s.”

Two of them are Benjamin Gaylord and Sonny Durkin. Gaylord has been team captain the past two years and will attend Coastal Carolina for professional golf management; while Durkin is “a solid player and solid academically” and is looking to get into sports management.

The Irish’s top scorer is Oscar Solares, who the coach terms a “stud sophomore.” He has broken 40 every match this season and is averaging 37.7 per nine holes.

“He’s going to be a player in the area over the next two years,” Lyons said. “He’s a team leader that kids look up to even though he is an underclassman. He will have the talent to compete in a collegiate program.”

Freshman Thomas Carpenter is second on the team in scoring average at 39.7. Carpenter is a multi-sport athlete who Lyons feels can also play golf at the next level.

Rotating at the final spot are freshman Charlie Raymond and seniors Grady Rowlands and Marcus Balerna.

“They are interchangeable when it comes to talent levels, but I believe Charlie will be very good as he matures,” Lyons said. “Grady and Marcus have been with me since their freshman years and have shown major improvement through the years.”

Through the blend of seniors and young players has emerged a nice chemistry among the squad.

“I have a number of returning seniors that haven’t gotten a lot of playing time due to a few underclassmen that have played above expectations, but the team is always there for one another and has developed a family-like relationship,” Lyons said. “This is hands down the best overall group of kids I have had in my time with Notre Dame. The underclassmen have crazy talent and I believe the program will be top-notch over the next few years.”

As always, success breeds success. Lyons noted that as word of Notre Dame’s improvement has spread throughout the school, other talented players will start showing interest. And the coach – who has loved helping young players improve – is doing his best to keep the Irish progressing.

“I’ll be instituting camps as well as different avenues for these kids to thrive in a competitive atmosphere,” he said. “We look to create not only good golfers but great men in the future in our program and this is something that comes before all else. This is a great group of kids and I believe we will only get stronger as the season progresses.”

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Slowly but surely, Lawrenceville’s Notre Dame High golf team has worked its way back into the mix of top teams in Mercer County.

Asked where he feels his team could finish in this year’s Mercer County Tournament on May 3, fourth-year coach Adam Lyons said, “We should be top three. Princeton’s really the only team that should have a chance of beating us. I don’t typically always play my starters, they only get into certain matches based on the time frame, but my top six kids can play with anybody in our section.”

Lyons, a Class A PGA Professional, is general manager of Cranbury Golf Club, West Windsor, where the Irish play their home matches. He took over the program in 2021 and guided ND to an 11-3 record after it went 2-8 in 2019 (there was no season in 2020 due to COVID).

Notre Dame went a combined 14-9 the previous two seasons and were 6-3 entering an Apr. 25 match with Lawrence. ND’s setbacks were close – losing by four strokes to Hopewell, eight to Princeton and five to Allentown. The combined mark of those three was 31-3 as of Apr. 24. 

“It was a tough loss to Hopewell at the beginning of the season,” Lyons said. “We kind of glued a little better since then.”

It has been a work in progress, as the Irish had to survive some key personnel losses.

“We’ve been building pretty nicely over the last few years and the kids have gotten better,” Lyons said. “I lost some kids who went down to Florida to play, but I have a good core. I’ve had my seniors since their freshman year. Some of them couldn’t break 50 as freshmen and now they’re shooting in the 30s.”

Two of them are Benjamin Gaylord and Sonny Durkin. Gaylord has been team captain the past two years and will attend Coastal Carolina for professional golf management; while Durkin is “a solid player and solid academically” and is looking to get into sports management.

The Irish’s top scorer is Oscar Solares, who the coach terms a “stud sophomore.” He has broken 40 every match this season and is averaging 37.7 per nine holes.

“He’s going to be a player in the area over the next two years,” Lyons said. “He’s a team leader that kids look up to even though he is an underclassman. He will have the talent to compete in a collegiate program.”

Freshman Thomas Carpenter is second on the team in scoring average at 39.7. Carpenter is a multi-sport athlete who Lyons feels can also play golf at the next level.

Rotating at the final spot are freshman Charlie Raymond and seniors Grady Rowlands and Marcus Balerna.

“They are interchangeable when it comes to talent levels, but I believe Charlie will be very good as he matures,” Lyons said. “Grady and Marcus have been with me since their freshman years and have shown major improvement through the years.”

Through the blend of seniors and young players has emerged a nice chemistry among the squad.

“I have a number of returning seniors that haven’t gotten a lot of playing time due to a few underclassmen that have played above expectations, but the team is always there for one another and has developed a family-like relationship,” Lyons said. “This is hands down the best overall group of kids I have had in my time with Notre Dame. The underclassmen have crazy talent and I believe the program will be top-notch over the next few years.”

As always, success breeds success. Lyons noted that as word of Notre Dame’s improvement has spread throughout the school, other talented players will start showing interest. And the coach – who has loved helping young players improve – is doing his best to keep the Irish progressing.

“I’ll be instituting camps as well as different avenues for these kids to thrive in a competitive atmosphere,” he said. “We look to create not only good golfers but great men in the future in our program and this is something that comes before all else. This is a great group of kids and I believe we will only get stronger as the season progresses.”

The Church needs quality Catholic journalism now more than ever. Please consider supporting this work by signing up for a SUBSCRIPTION (click HERE) or making a DONATION to The Monitor (click HERE). Thank you for your support.

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