Even before the Darien boys golf team plays its first match this season, the Blue Wave are winners.

Last month, Darien senior captain James Burgoyne was named the Section I winner of the Spirit of Sport Award by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

The award, which encompasses all sports, recognizes individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive spirit of sport that represent the core mission of education-based athletics.

Burgoyne earned the honor after two years ago getting his teammates involved in Birdies for the Brave, a national military outreach initiative organized by PGA Charities that supports the U.S. Armed Forces.

Veteran Darien coach Tom O'Donnell said he was approached by Burgoyne in 2010.

"He was looking for a way to show his appreciation for what our troops and their families were sacrificing on our behalf," O'Donnell said.

The Darien team raised $3,500 and the PGA was so impressed that it got other high schools throughout the country involved in the effort. According to O'Donnell, his players were impacted in a positive way by Burgoyne's pursuit.

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"I think for the first time, they got a tangible understanding of where the freedom and security they enjoy every day comes from," O'Donnell said. "I think they had taken that for granted."

Burgoyne will be one of the starters for the Blue Wave this year after serving as the sixth man on last year's team that went 17-0-1 and beat perennial FCIAC powers New Canaan and Greenwich. He posted a stroke average of 45.0 for the nine-hole regular season matches.

Darien is in the same position as it was last year, returning no players who made the all-FCIAC or all-FCIAC East team. Kevin Winter was named to the all-division team a year ago but has graduated.

"We are definitely not anybody's choice to win the FCIAC on paper going into the season," O'Donnell said. "But we weren't last year, either."

All the Blue Wave did last season was produce what is believed to be the greatest season in school history. Darien also lost Brian Curry and Chris Carmody from a team that went on to finish fifth in the FCIAC championship and seventh in the Division II state championship.

It might be a lot to ask for another 17-0-1 season, Still, O'Donnell thinks this year's team will have a lot of the same characteristics as last year's squad.

The two returning starters are junior Kieren Suri (42.0 stroke average last season) and sophomore Cameron Van de Graaf (41.0).

Two others who could be in the starting rotation are senior Kevin Steinthall (46.0) and sophomore Mac Koorbusch (45.0), the top two players on Darien's JV team last year. Also up from the JV squad is senior Jim Anderson.

The team also includes an unexpected newcomer in Max Rothston, the goalie for Darien's hockey team. Rothson showed promise after shooting 43-42-41 in the final three qualifying rounds.