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    Wednesday, August 17, 2022

    The Day's All-Area Boys' Golfer of the Year: Stonington's Brandon Tavares

    Stonington High School junior Brandon Tavares shot a 78 to finish tied for seventh place at the Division II state championship at Tallwood Country Club, earning all-state honors. Tavares was named The Day's 2022 All-Area Boys' Golfer of the Year. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

    Brandon Tavares never seriously considered taking up golf until the pandemic shutdown hit.

    With limited choices, Tavares decided golf would be a safe activity that would keep him busy. He spent a lot of time playing different courses in the area.

    “I had nothing to do,” Tavares said. “You can’t get COVID if you’re just out on the course.”

    Never did Tavares imagine that he would fall so hard for the sport.

    Tavares, who just completed his junior year at Stonington High School, has made huge strides in just two years of playing competitive golf. He was named The Day’s 2022 All-Area Boys’ Golfer of the Year.

    “Two years into the game, he’s shooting below par for nine holes,” coach Scott Smilinich said. “That’s impressive.”

    Tavares has come a long way from the first day he showed up at a Stonington golf team practice as a sophomore. He’s dropped his handicap from 19 to 5.

    Smilinich remembers watching Tavares play for the first time.

    “It was after the pandemic, so a lot of people came out that I had never seen play before,” Smilinich said. “The first time he said, ‘Coach, how do I fix this?’ I said, ‘Change this,’ and he did it and fixed it. From that point forward, I thought ‘This kid is coachable.’ Every coach wants that.

    “He’s moved beyond that now in his own maturation and learning the game. You could tell him something and he would do it. It would give him the result that he wanted. He understood the value of that. ... Brandon’s at the point where he’s starting to figure things out for himself.”

    The results back that up.

    Tavares culminated his best high school season by tying for seventh in the CIAC Division II Championship on June 6, shooting a 78 at Tallwood Country Club. He finished just two shots out of second place and missed qualifying for the State Open by one stroke. He helped the Bears place fourth overall.

    He was named to the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division II first team and recovered from a rocky start — a triple bogey and double bogey on his first two holes — to shoot an 83 at the ECC championship.

    “I was just shocked,” Tavares said about his success this season. “I did really well this year. I was surprised that I even got all-state. I didn’t think that was possible. I was surprised I even got All-ECC.”

    This spring, Tavares tweaked his game and learned different shots. He has the demeanor for golf, possessing the ability to quickly shake off bad shots.

    “He’s in the process of building his tool kit, his shots that he has in the bag,” Smilinich said. “If he continues on, he’s going to be one of those kids that has a shot for pretty much any situation. It’s been cool to watch.”

    What’s also been cool for Smilinich is that Tavares and teammate Cam O’Connor, who plays at No. 2, share a similar work ethic and desire to improve.

    “He plays a lot of golf with Cam O’Connor,” Smilinich said. “They feed off each other, they push each other and they play a lot together. They’re always learning the game together.”

    During one ECC match at Stonington Country Club, Tavares fired a personal best 3-under 33 and O’Connor a 35 on the front nine. They decided to play the back nine just for fun and Tavares finished with a 71.

    Tavares is just getting started.

    Like any high schooler relatively new to competitive golf, Tavares still has a lot to learn, especially with it comes to decision making. The difference between good and bad days is sometimes just a few shots.

    “He’s shooting good scores now,” Smilinich said. “What we need to work on with him is understanding a little bit better course management.”

    For the second straight summer, Tavares plans to play as much golf as possible. He is also the starting goalie for Stonington’s Class M state championship boys’ soccer team.

    There’s nothing better than playing a round on a nice day.

    “It’s just so peaceful,” Tavares said. “There’s no thoughts in your brain except hitting the ball straight.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

    Stonington's Brandon Tavares earned All-ECC Division II and Division II all-state honors in just his second year playing competitive golf. The goalie for the Class M state champion Stonington boys' soccer team, Tavares undertook golf as a way to stay busy during the COVID-19 shutdown and his game has taken off from there. “If he continues on, he’s going to be one of those kids that has a shot for pretty much any situation," Stonington coach Scott Smilinich said. "It’s been cool to watch.” (Dana Jensen/The Day)

    The Day's 2022 All-Area Boys' Golf Team

    Player of the Year - Brandon Tavares (Stonington)

    Jackson Kramer (Fitch)

    Nathan McCormack (Fitch)

    Tyler Moore (East Lyme)

    Morgun Whittaker (Montville)

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