For the first time in memory, last week's state golf tournament served as a two-day showcase for Anne Arundel County golf. It left the players beaming, the coaches teary-eyed.
Two county teams finished in the top six for the first time in a decade, but in a reversal of fortune, it was upstart Broadneck in fifth, 13 strokes ahead of traditional power Severna Park in sixth. Broadneck's Chip Hardie placed seventh, the best ever invidual finish by a Bruin. Northeast's Stephanie Connelly, as expected, won the state title.
But the most encouraging moment for county golf? That came after the competition had ended, when Severna Park senior Brendan O'Brien pushed his ball around the practice putting green and announced his one regret of the tournament.
"Man," O'Brien said, "it just kills me that we're going to lose to Broadneck."
And so the county's first golf rivalry was officially sealed. After years of domination by Severna Park, a heated competition between the two schools has been brewing all season -- one that coaches hope will boost high school golf throughout the county.
After a full season of give-and-take, the Bruins and the Falcons ended the season appropriately last week, separated by just a few strokes at the state tournament, this time with Broadneck slightly on top. The routinely nail-biting results have created a new dynamic at the county's top two golf powers. Instead of worrying about individual scores, golfers are focusing primarily on the team.
"Basically, our main goal is always to beat them," Severna Park sophomore Eric Florenz said. "I want to play well, sure. But more than anything, we always want to put Broadneck in its place."
It's a feeling that's familiar between the two schools, but foreign in the sport of golf. Severna Park and Broadneck, two of the county's closest schools geographically, have long been rivals in most sports, with volleyball, field hockey, cross-country and lacrosse competitions the most heated in recent years.
In golf, though, Broadneck never presented much of a challenge. While the Falcons are a perennial golf power -- they finished fourth in the state last year -- the Bruins are a traditional non-factor.
Only in August, when a senior-loaded Broadneck team pummeled Severna Park in their first meeting, did a rivalry ever seem possible. And since then, it's played out as the best rivalries do: Severna Park won sometimes, Broadneck others. The two teams traded barbs ("We're definitely a little better than them," Hardie said) while still remaining friendly ("I've got so much respect for them," Hardie added).
Best of all, the two teams -- in results -- remained improbably tangled. On the first day of the state tournament, each team sent four golfers out for 18 holes and, five hours later, emerged with the same score, a 316. So when Broadneck outplayed Severna Park on the second day, 317 to 330, it felt like a monumental moment in school history.
"The type of rivalry we have, it's just so special," said Broadneck Coach Peter Hiskey, who teared up while talking about his team. "For us both to be here on the second day of the state tournament, carrying the flag for the county like this, that's a great thing. I feel so good for all the guys involved."
Said Severna Park Coach Paul Pellicani: "They're our number one rival in every other sport. To see that start in golf, too, that would really get some more excitement going around both of these teams. We might see golf get a little bigger."
Pellicani might benefit in another way, too: His young team is already talking about framing next season around redemption.
Severna Park brings back three sophomores who qualified for the state tournament; Broadneck graduates almost its entire team.
Ten minutes after the state tournament ended, Florenz started plotting next year's game plan.
"It'll be sweet," he said. "We're going to come back at them. That's what a rivalry is all about."