CRANSTON — Wearing pink shirts to signify Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Cumberland High stood out on the golf course.
By the time the first round of the RIIL Golf State Tournament was finished Tuesday afternoon at a sun-drenched Cranston Country Club, the Clippers also stood out on the leaderboard.
Jamison Randall tied medalist honors, firing an even-par 71. Behind the talented senior, the rest of the Clippers didn’t do so badly either. Senior teammates Mike Ray and Jack Andrade each carded a 79 and sophomore Brendan Guerin posted an 83.
That four-player total added up to a remarkable 312 and second place, five strokes behind first-day leader Portsmouth (307). North Kingstown finished third at 314 and four-time defending state champion Barrington is fourth at 317.
The Clippers will battle for their first team crown since 1991 this afternoon in the final round of the 36-hole tourney, beginning at 7 a.m.
“For us to be in the mix is great,” said Cumberland coach Jim Dickinson. “Some of the kids just had really, really good rounds. I wasn’t expecting top three. I am very excited for them.”
Despite the Clippers capturing the competitive North Division with a record of 12-1-1, the pre-tournament favorites to snare a top-four finish and earn the rite to play for the state title were Barrington (14-0-0, East Division) as well as perennial powers Bishop Hendricken (13-1-0, Central Division), Portsmouth (12-2-0, East Division), North Kingstown (13-1-1, South Division) and La Salle (14-0-0, West Division)
“We kind of played under the radar all year and nobody expected much from us,” Andrade said.
Randall, a runner-up finisher last year, shares the first-round lead of the individual tourney with senior Seamus Fennelly of Coventry, who also shot a 71. Both players went into Tuesday’s round with the top scoring averages during the regular season.
The real surprises for the Clippers occurred from their No. 2 and No. 3 players - Ray and Andrade. Ray got off to the hottest start among all his teammates and most in the field with a 1-under 34 after nine holes. He struggled somewhat on the back nine, but still settled for one of his strongest rounds of the spring.
“Mikey Ray has been very consistent over the course of the year,” Dickinson said. “I figured he would have a decent round.”
Andrade also saved his best for last. His average nine-hole score during the league season was a 43.5.
“My scoring average was a lot worse than I thought it would be this year,” Andrade said. “I kind of had a rough year, but I peaked at the right time so I feel good at where I am.”
“He has been up and down all season,” Dickinson said. “For him to be in the 70s, that’s a great way to end the season.”
Andrade felt the turnaround point in his round came at the eighth - a 120-yard hole where the green is surrounded by water. He was six over before teeing his ball and managed a par on the difficult hole.
Andrade laid his ball on the green with a solid drive and then two-putted for a 3. He finished the front nine with a 41, but was three shots better on the back nine with a 2-over 38.
“When I parred that I just felt good about where I was going and went on a little hot streak,” he said. “I almost made the putt for birdie.”
The young Guerin felt his score could have been even lower.
“I had a 39 on the front,” he said. “I could have done a lot better. I missed a lot of greens from the fairway. (My round) wasn’t good the way I was hitting the ball, but it was about average from what I usually do.”
Randall had his typical round on Tuesday. He was an even-par 35 on the front nine despite hitting his ball over the green at the par-3 eighth.
“I cleared the green and the water,” he said. “I was able to drop it and make a nice chip and get a four. I was pretty fortunate to escape that with a bogey.”
Randall was 1-over by the time he reached the 545-yard 17th. He got to even with an impressive birdie. The Clipper standout ripped his drive off the tee more than 300 yards. His approach shot landed to the left of the elevated green. He chipped the ball to within 20 feet of the cup and rolled it in for his birdie four.
“I kind of flubbed the second shot a little bit,” he said. “I kind of left the putt a little short, but then I made a nice putt.”
“(Overall), I shot pretty well,” he continued. “I hit the ball okay, I guess? But I didn’t really make anything, except for the birdie on 17. That’s it. Other than that, it was pretty mediocre.”
Randall will be looking to become the first Cumberland golfer to win a state title since Chris Simmons earned the plaque in 1989. Randall will be in the last group (8:38 a.m. tee time) along with Fennelly and La Salle phenom Juliet Vongphoumy. The Ram senior, who copped the individual crown as a freshman in 2008, shot a 75 from the white tees.
“(Wednesday), I see no reason to change my game plan,” he said. “I just came out here looking to play solid and give myself a chance. (Wednesday) I am looking to play solid again and give myself a chance at the title.”
Cumberland has an outside chance to get the two-for-one special with its first team crown in 20 years.
“Anything can happen when it’s one day,” Andrade said. “We just need to put 18 more good holes together.”
Lincoln, which finished third in the North Division at 12-1-1, didn’t fare quite as well as the neighboring Clippers, placing 10th overall with a score of 344. The top player for the Lions was senior Pete Brousseau, who fired an 84. Senior Marcus Murray (85), junior Zach Regine (86), freshman Jon Wahl (87) and sophomore Ryan Blais (87) comprised the scoring. Senior Jon Pickering hit the century mark.
“It was just a tough day on the course,” Lincoln coach Nick Maresca said. “The games weren’t up to par. Zach had a really off day. He shot a 74 yesterday at Rehoboth (Country Club) and shot in the 80s today. Jon Wahl, I expect low 80s, high 70s and Jon Pickering just had a bad day. He doesn’t shoot a 100 like that. They just shot 10 to 15 shots over what they normally shoot.”
Considering that he has a bevy of young players, Maresca is optimistic about the future.
“I knew Cumberland and (second-place) Mount St. Charles was going to be tough teams this year. The good thing is I have a lot of young kids. We lose three seniors that played a lot of matches this year, but I still have a full boat. I still have a pretty strong squad. We will be contending for another three years.”
Mount St. Charles placed sixth in the 15-team field with a 327. Freshman Devin Votta led the Mounties with an 81. Freshman Tom Crudele, junior Shamus Maloney and junior Brad Auclair each fired an 82. Mount was second in the North Division at 11-2-1.
RIIL Golf State Tournament
At Cranston Country Club, Par 71
2. Cumberland (312) – Derek Dalton 45-46 91, Brendan Guerin 39-44 83, Chris Smith 43-42 85, Jack Andrade 41-38 79, Mike Ray 34-45 79, Jamison Randall 35-36 71.
6. Mount St. Charles (327) – Devin Votta 81, Shamus Maloney 82, Tom Crudele 82, Brad Auclair 82, Ryan Berard 86, Daniel Foster 88.
10. Lincoln (344) – Ryan Blais 40-47 87, Peter Brousseau 42-42 84, Jon Pickering 45-55 100, Jon Wahl 44-43 87, Marcus Murray 46-49 85, Zach Regine 86
13. St. Raphael (352) – Chris Nunes 85, Matt Burke 86, Josh Grene 88, Alexander LaPolla 93, Blake Saraiva 119, Devon Driscoll 119.
East Providence – Ian Blackman 46-39 85, Ryan Barry 40-42 82.