Darien boys golf overcomes weather and New Canaan, 166-178

With the temperatures in the mid-50s and a steady wind blowing over the Wee Burn Country Club course on Monday, it sure didn’t feel like the high school golf season.

With poor conditions persisting since the beginning of April, the Darien Blue Wave and New Canaan Rams have yet to reach peak form, but you won’t find the Wave complain following its 166-178 victory over their rival.

“Anytime we can beat a quality program like New Canaan, it’s always a good day,” Darien head coach Tom O’Donnell said. “We have a lot of respect for Bill (Brown) and everything he’s done with that team.”

The victory kept Darien unbeaten at 8-0 this spring, while New Canaan suffered its first loss and is also near the top of the league standings with a 5-1 record. The Rams had been shooting better scores each time out, but stumbled at Wee Burn on Monday.

“We really hadn’t played the quality of teams like Darien the first five matches,” New Canaan head coach Bill Brown said. “We had been playing a little better every match until today. Hopefully, as the weather gets a little warmer, our game will get a little better. Neither team played very well today and we certainly didn’t play the way we can.”

If the weather forecast holds, temperatures will be rising this week and the warmer weather could help the players on both teams reach some consistency. In the meantime, they had to contend with at least one more day in the cold and wind.

“I expected the scores to be high today,” O’Donnell said. “The weather has been typically bad, it’s cold, it’s windy and the course has just been aerated, so I thought the guys would struggle. I’m sure neither team played the way they would like to, but we don’t look at any win with anything but gratitude.”

With the front part of the course being aerated, the Rams and Wave played the par-37 back nine at Wee Burn.

No one managed to sneak into the 30s, with Darien senior Will Wilson and sophomore Alex Gu tying for medalist honors with 4-over 41s. Wave sophomores Calvin Smith and Henry Sparkman shot 42s to finish Darien’s scoring, with junior Blake Swiggett shooting 45.

For New Canaan, junior co-captain Gunnar Granito was the leading scorer with a 5-over 42. Sophomore Max Orwicz was next with a 43, while Sam Ives, a freshman who had led the Rams in every match before Monday, shot a 45. Junior Liam O’Neill was next with a 48, and junior co-captain Grant Mellinger shot a 52.

Both coaches are looking for their teams to improve moving into the second half of the schedule and beyond into the postseason.

“We’re hoping we can do what we did last year and play better at the end of the season,” Brown said. “We need to get a few things fixed and play a little bit better. We just didn’t get it done today.”

“We have the talent to be as good as anybody on any given day,” O’Donnell said. “We’re not playing to our best ability yet, but I’m sure other teams are also struggling. We have a bunch of talented kids and a bunch of good young kids. So if we can get the kids like Blake Swiggett and Will Wilson who we count on, to play a little bit better, we believe we can be competitive in the postseason.”

The Rams and Wave each boast young talent and in fact, of the 10 players in the varsity lineups on Monday, only one — Darien’s Wilson — is a senior.

Leading the Wave has been a pair of sophomores — Calvin Smith and Henry Sparkman — which is a surprise given the return of veterans such as Wilson, Swiggett and Gu.

“There’s no doubt that Calvin Smith and Henry Sparkman who are both sophomores, have had great seasons,” O’Donnell said. “They both have scoring averages under 40, and they’ve both been playing steady match to match.

“Right now, ironically, Alex Gu, Will Wilson and Blake are all struggling and those are the three guys I didn’t think I’d have to work about at all,” O’Donnell said. “If you play this game long enough, everybody goes through this. They’re going to be fine. None of them are happy with the way they’re playing but I think, by the end of the year, we’ll be there.”

For New Canaan, the freshman Ives has been great this spring, and Orwicz, a sophomore, has also been a key contributor along with the team’s expected leader, Granito.

“(Ives) doesn’t really hit it that far, he’s not a big kid, but he’s got a very good game,” Brown said. “He’s got a really nice swing and he’s been terrific for us. I’m very happy with him.

“He (Orwicz) is a good kid, a real hard worker, and he’s going to have a great year for us,” Brown added. “He’s only a sophomore and he’s going to be a big part of our team not only this year, but for the next two years to come. He’s very calm and he’s got a good demeanor for the game.”

While their regular-season meeting has now come and gone, the two rivals will see each other again in the postseason at both the FCIAC and state Div. I meets.

“I know both teams will play better as the year goes on and as the weather gets better, we’ll both get better,” O’Donnell said. “I know we’ll see them again soon in the playoffs.”

Darien 166, New Canaan 178

Monday, April 30, at Wee Burn CC (Back 9), Par 37

Darien: Will Wilson 41, Alex Gu 41, Calvin Smith 42, Henry Sparkman 42, Blake Swiggett 45

New Canaan: Gunnar Granito 42, Max Orwicz 43, Sam Ives 45, Liam O’Neill 48, Grant Mellinger 52

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Darien’s Will Wilson tees off on the final hole of Monday’s boys golf match at Wee Burn CC in Darien. — Dave Stewart Photo

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