LINCOLN — Golf couldn’t have gone any better for Jamison Randall last summer.
During a magnificent, two-month stretch on the links, the Cumberland High senior captured three tournaments, winning the World Series of Junior Golf at Triggs G.C., the Rhode Island Golfers Association (RIGA) Junior Championships and the New England Junior Championships, taking that prestigious tourney in sudden death.
With a winter’s worth of sharpening his skills at Elite Golf in Cranston and an early acceptance to Division I school Old Dominion University in Virginia, the 18-year-old Randall is relaxed and confident about his final high school season.
And he’s not letting his most recent success, which includes a runner-up finish at last year’s state tournament, affect his mindset in a game that depends largely on one’s mental capabilities.
“I have worked hard over the winter at Elite Golf. I have worked there the last three years and have improved every year that I have been there,” said Randall, shortly after firing a 1-over 36 at Kirkbrae Country Club during Monday’s North Division opener against Lincoln and Woonsocket. The Clippers edged the Lions, 164-165. The Villa Novans finished with a score of 268. “I haven’t had a summer like (this past year). It was beyond my expectations. But I think I’ve done a good job of not thinking that I am just good enough and know that I can still improve.”
Although it wasn’t a victory, Randall’s spring season got off to a good start this past week when he finished second behind Portsmouth junior Alex Grimes at the 29th annual Challenge Cup Championship, a statewide competition held at the Alpine Country Club. Grimes carded a two-day, 36-hole score of 147 – a shot ahead of Randall, who had scores of 73 and 75.
In last year’s RIGA Juniors, the Clipper standout beat Grimes, 2-and-1, in the championship finals, also at Alpine, his home course.
“It wasn’t my best golf, but I played well,” he said. “Last year a scores of 73, 75 would have been good scores. This year, it was unsatisfactory. I was one back after Day One and had a (seven-to-eight foot) putt on the last hole to force a playoff that lipped out. He’s a very good player and he’s going to improve.”
Based on what he did over the summer and the fact that he finished second to graduating senior Jared Adams of Barrington at last year’s state tournament, Cumberland head coach Jim Dickinson believes his golfer is the early-season favorite to snare the individual title at this year’s tourney at the Cranston Country Club. He also feels that Randall is ready to take on the challenge and will not be affected by the hype that’s sure to come his way as the spring season progresses.
“I don’t think he really cares. I think he knows where he stands in the state,” Dickinson said. “He’s just out to help the team.”
“I think once he signed with Old Dominion, that took a lot of pressure off him,” he continued. “He wants to have fun every match that he golfs. Having the summer like he had has really boosted his confidence.”
Randall admits that getting accepted to Old Dominion, which he earned a partial athletic and academic scholarship, has enabled him to play a little more relaxed than in the past.
“Definitely,” he said. “I am not playing to get into college now. I’m playing to prepare for college.”
The focus now for Randall is to continue to improve with an eye on a state title. The last Clipper golfer to earn that distinction was Chris Simmons in 1989.
“My goal for the season is just to relax a little bit,” he said. “I was kind of ‘iffy’ about bad shots last year, but I am more determined to let that slide now.”
Added Dickinson: “I think Jamison is looking forward to trying to win (a state title) this year, and he deserves it.”
Cumberland and Lincoln, two of the premier teams in the North Division, showed their mettle on Monday. The Clippers held on for their one-shot win (164-165), but that was after a comfortable cushion dissolved when the Lions’ No. 5 player Jon Pickering, a senior, fired a four-over 40.
“I thought it would be close,” LHS coach Nick Maresca said. “It could have gone either way, honestly.”
Randall led the scoring for the Clippers with his 36. Senior teammates Chris Smith and Mike Ray each cared a 42 and senior Jack Andrade finished with a 44.
Dickinson was pleased with his squad’s league opener and is looking forward to a strong season. Last year the Clippers finished second in the North division behind undefeated league titlist Mount St. Charles Academy with a 10-3-1 record. Cumberland tied for seventh with Cranston West in the state tournament.
“I think we can do very well. I definitely want to make the playoffs again and place in the top three in our division,” Dickinson said. “Mount is the team to beat and everyone else is a ‘pickem’ I think we are good enough to play in the states and good enough to compete.”
Dickinson lists his top four players in Monday’s match as key to his team’s success, also senior Nick Melarango as well as promising freshman Brendan Guerin, who had a 49 against the Lions and Villa Novans.
“The future is bright,” he said. “I am excited about it. So far, from what I seeing, we look pretty good. But it is kind of what I expected it to be.”
Lincoln finished fourth in the league last year at 8-5-1 and lost a play-in match to Smithfield for the state tournament. The Lions had solid scores from junior Zack Regine (39), senior Marcus Murray (43), sophomore Ryan Blais (44) and freshman Jon Wahl (43) on Monday.
Maresca is hopeful on the 2011 season.
“Everybody is returning from last year. We didn’t lose anyone,” he said. “We have a lot of experience and some great young players, which is good. Hopefully, we’ll finish better than fourth (in the league) this season.”
Winless last year in the division, a six-member Woonsocket team finished Monday’s match with a score of 268. Sophomore Matt Brennan had a team-best 63 and junior Mike Plasse fired a 65.
“It could be a little different this year,” said WHS coach John Theroux, whose squad compiled a record of 0-14 last spring. “Our goal is for improvement throughout the season. We have two returning players from last year’s team. The other four still have a lot to learn. We just want to improve on our scores week after week.”
CUMBERLAND (164) – Jamison Randall 36, Chris Smith 42, Mike Ray 42, Jack Andrade 44, Nick Melarango 51, Brendan Guerin 49
LINCOLN (165) – Zack Regine 39, Marcus Murray 43, Ryan Blais 44, Jon Wahl 43, Jon Pickering 40, Peter Brousseau 48
WOONSOCKET (268) – Mike Plasse 65, Matt Brennan 63, Brian Cahill 70, Nick Bousquet 73, Matt Default 71, Brian Tavares 85