East Lyme golf ends 46-year ECC title drought, dethrones Killingly
Waterford — With the golf program's first Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament championship in 46 years officially secured, East Lyme coach Rudy Bagos exchanged heartfelt hugs and handshakes with his team.
It was a day worth celebrating.
Not only did the Vikings score a drought-busting conference tournament victory, their first since 1973, they also dethroned Killingly, king of the ECC the last six seasons.
"We've wanted this for awhile," junior Ben Bohmbach said. "Killingly has won it for the last six years. We finally have it and it's awesome. It's so great. This is what we've been working for all year."
The Vikings did it in impressive fashion, posting a nine-stroke margin of victory at Great Neck Country Club. They finished with 323 strokes compared to the Redmen's 332. Norwich Free Academy took third with 349 and Waterford fourth with 352.
"It's always nice to take down a dynasty," Bagos said. "We knew this was going to be a dogfight and it was. We didn't know until our last guy came in that we actually won. They're a good team. It's nice to finally get one for East Lyme and for all the players that played for us before."
Killingly coach Kevin Marcoux watched the Vikings pass around the trophy.
"Even the UConn women lose once in awhile, right?" Marcoux said. "All good things come to an end. Tip your hat to East Lyme. They have a great team. ... It's hard to give up that trophy. I've stared at that trophy in my office the last six years and took a lot of pride having that."
Killingly didn't go home empty-handed. Nolan Marcoux shared medalist honors with Tourtellotte's Jared Belanger and Woodstock's Mason Stewart, who all fired a 4-over 75.
East Lyme's superior depth was the difference.
The Vikings placed four golfers in the top 11, with Bohmbach's 76 leading the way. He pointed out that a double bogey on the last hole prevented him from earning medalist honors. Not that it mattered with East Lyme winning.
Matt Orefice and Logan Rolfe each fired an 82 for the Vikings and Evan Kluge had an 83. Dan Singer rounded out the scoring with an 86.
As a group, the Vikings played steady golf and never let a bad hole derail them. Rolfe recovered nicely after posting a nine on his first hole.
"It's huge," Bagos said. "He could have written it off, right then and there."
The Vikings came close last season to ending their drought, leading at the turn at Quinnatisset Country Club before settling for second place, a familiar finish for them over the years.
It served as motivation throughout the season and their confidence never wavered when they dropped a tight regular-season match to Killingly last week. It was East Lyme's only regular season loss.
Still, the Vikings hadn't won a conference tournament title since Elton John's Crocodile Rock became a big hit, so there was a mental hurdle to clear.
"We knew it was possible," Bohmbach said. "We were thinking about how big of a deal it would be. So we made it our goal to win and we did."
East Lyme has had some strong teams over the years but fallen short in its title pursuit. Tournament pressure has affected them at times.
But not on Thursday.
"We've always had good teams coming into this and for some reason we've never played well," Bagos said. "But this group is different. We've got some very good players but we're just deep. The good thing about this group is if someone plays bad, someone picks him up. You could see that today. ... It's just a great group."
With four of his top five players returning this season, Bagos had a good feeling that something special was brewing.
"I knew this year was going to be a good year for us," Bagos said. "I didn't want my kids to wait until next year. I wanted it to be this year. They earned it."