Gonzaga’s golf team has stood above its competition all season. Boasting 13 players with 3-handicaps or better, the flag-hunting Eagles didn’t drop a single match this spring, their dominance coalescing in a 44-shot romp in last week’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference tournament.
Gonzaga separated itself from the pack around noon Tuesday, an hour before the Metros Championship teed off at P.B. Dye Golf Club in Ijamsville. While other teams huddled around scorecards scrutinizing pin placements and yardages, Gonzaga’s tightknit bunch shared thigh-slapping stories while chowing down on chicken fingers and wraps.
“I knew then that our guys were going to play well today,” Gonzaga Coach Mike Hanagan said.
The loose approach paid dividends, pushing Gonzaga to a 13-shot victory over two-time defending champion Landon in the season’s final competition. Georgetown Prep finished in third.
Gonzaga’s winning total of 364 added up to a cumulative 4 over par among its top five finishers. Not too shabby on a championship-caliber golf course featuring slippery, tiered greens with diabolical pin locations.
Attitude goes a long way. Luck helps. Gonzaga senior Pudge Williams proved as much when he pulled his approach shot left of the 18th green, only to see it kick hard off a ridge, scurry 20 feet across the putting surface and settle three feet from the cup. Williams turned to an assistant coach and exclaimed, “Better to be lucky than good, right?” He tapped in the birdie putt for an even-par 72.
The Eagles, of course, were more good than lucky. Senior Teddy Zinsner and sophomore Pieter DeGroot earned co-medalist honors with scores of 71. Matt Barnes fired 76, and Kevin Johnson closed with three birdies to card 74.
That parity helped Gonzaga record an even-par 360 at its WCAC triumph last week, a conference record. It also sharpened the season-long focus of a group with three seniors committed to play Division I golf and underclassmen on track to follow suit.
“If you slip up, somebody’s going to be right there, so it definitely keeps you focused,” said Zinsner, a Yale commit who averaged 34.5 in 9-hole matches this season.
Gonzaga’s collective effort stole the show Tuesday, but no one displayed more grit than Landon senior John Kalavritinos. One day before his scheduled surgery, Kalavritinos fired a team-best 74 while fighting through labral tears in both hips. The Bucknell commit loaded up on Tylenol and swaddled his back and hips in KT tape and Icy Hot patches, often crouching and wincing after tee shots.
“This tournament and the team meant everything to me, so I had to be out here,” Kalavritinos said.
Tuesday’s result marked the culmination of a vision laid out last October. Hanagan, a first-year coach, called his talented charges together before school one day and proclaimed their goals for the coming spring: win the conference, beat Landon, win Metros, go undefeated.
The Eagles did all those things, though their coach took no credit.
“I’m just trying to make sure they get to the course on time,” Hanagan said.