Albany Academy golf coach Jak Bestle thought his youthful Cadets were at least a year away from being contenders in the Class A sectionals.
He was wrong.
The surprising Cadets, who were led by three sophomores and a junior, posted a team score of 310 to edge Shaker by four strokes in the Section II Class A Golf Championship Tuesday at Ballston Spa Country Club.
Saratoga Springs finished third with a 319, while Shaker junior Bobby Caniff earned medalist honors with a two-over-par 73. Twenty-one others earned a spot in next Tuesday’s ABCD playoffs — the first of two qualifiers for the state team — at Orchard Creek.
“This is our first Class A title ever,” said Bestle, who also serves as the Section II golf chairman. “We’ve been a Class A school for about seven years now, and we’ve finished second or third before, but never first.”
Bestle admitted he was a little surprised by his team’s performance, especially against the likes of Shaker, Saratoga and Bethlehem.
“They’re young, and they’re not afraid of going out and trying to shoot a low score,” he said. “Our theme was, ‘Shock the world.’ We have four sophomores and a junior as our core guys, and we’re looking forward to the future. We should be very good for the next couple of years.”
Bestle said being the Section II chairman actually helped keep his mind off how his team was doing, because he had other duties to perform.
“I knew we were in good shape when our first two guys came in with good scores,” said Bestle. “But with schools like Bethlehem and Shaker out there, I didn’t know anything for sure.
“Ballston Spa is a shorter course, and our guys just kept the ball in play. It might be more challenging next week.”
Sophomores Sean Puleo (74), Patrick Hayes (76) and Tom Sneeringer (77) led the way for the Cadets, while junior Tyler Lyons added an 83. The only senior on the team is George Miller, but the
Cadets didn’t need to use his score.
“We are pretty young,” said Puleo. “We’ve got two good years ahead of us. I thought we had a good chance to do well today, but all of us had to do well, and that’s what happened.”
Puleo reached two of the par-5s in two and two-putted for birdie both times. He also tacked on a third birdie.
“I putted pretty well. I only had two three-putts,” he said. “Orchard Creek will be tougher for us, because it’s a lot longer. I only hit it about 250 yards off the tee, so Orchard Creek will be a good test.”
Puleo’s stroke average is between 37 and 38 for the Cadets. He will be joined in Tuesday’s playoffs by Hayes and Sneeringer. The cut for advancing to the next round was 80.
In the battle for individual medalist honors, Caniff was trying to bounce back from a recent bout with the shanks.
“I just got rid of the shanks, and I was just trying to stick it out today,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t have any shanks today. I was playing with [Bethlehem’s] Matt Mastrianni, and I kept my eye on how he was doing. That’s how I could tell how well I was doing and if I had a chance to be medalist.”
Caniff said he and the Blue Bison were disappointed not to win the title. They finished third in the recent Suburban Council tournament, but he wasn’t at full strength because he was battling a case of walking pneumonia.
Tuesday, he rolled in five birdies to help offset a triple-bogey eight on the 13th hole.
“I’ve just got to keep cool on Tuesday and stay focused,” he said in reference to his goal of making the state team. “I’ve done it before.”
Both the Class B and Class C-D tournaments will be held at Ballston Spa CC today.
Team scores: Albany Academy 310, Shaker 314, Saratoga Springs 319, Bethlehem 320, Shenendehowa 321, Ballston Spa 324, Niskayuna 331, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake 335, LaSalle 336, Queensbury 339, CBA 350, Columbia 362, Guilderland 367, Averill Park 371, Colonie 381, Amsterdam 391.
Qualifiers — Bobby Caniff (Shaker) 73, Sean Puleo (Albany Academy) 74, Michael Zhao (Niskayuna) 74, Matt Mastrianni (Bethlehem) 75, Tanner Donovan (Shaker) 75, Patrick Hayes (Albany Academy) 76, Tom Sneeringer (Albany Academy) 77, Dylan Murphy (Saratoga Springs) 77, Kyle Matthews (Shenendehowa) 77, Zach Scala (Ballston Spa) 78, Jordan Rutherford (Niskayuna) 78, Bobby McCarthy (Shenendehowa) 78, Sean Walsh (Ballston Spa) 79, Joe Kapczynski (Bethlehem) 79, Patrick Shakar (BH-BL) 79, Christopher Thompson (Saratoga Springs) 79, Calvin Cleworth (Schenectady) 79, Hunter Donovan (Shaker) 79, Austin Fox (Bethlehem) 80, Noah Bonn (Queensbury) 80, Dan Shepherd (Saratoga Springs) 80, Austin Felt (Shenendehowa) 80.
Other top scorers — Jake DeVito (Ballston Spa) 81, Tom Degen (LaSalle) 81, Ben Gardenier (LaSalle) 82, Tyler Lyons (Albany Academy) 83, Darryn Bradt (BH-BL) 83, Liam Baynes (LaSalle) 83, Calvin Beckwith (Saratoga Springs) 83, Jack Downey (Troy) 83, Kyle Ernest (Averill Park) 84, Kevin Brocks (Columbia) 84, Colin Gaunt (Queensbury) 84, Connor Adams (CBA) 85, Nick Fox (Ballston Spa) 86, Sean Corrigan (Bethlehem) 86, Christian Gramuglia (BH-BL) 86, Nico Montello (Columbia) 86, Josh Bonn (Queensbury) 86, Max Pawlick (Saratoga Springs) 86, Dylan Mulvihill (Shenendehowa) 86, David Wellington (BH-BL) 87, Will Burger (Guilderland) 87, Mike Alley (Shaker) 87, John Malicki (Albany Academy) 88, James Phelps (Amsterdam) 88, Jack O’Hara (CBA) 88, Kyle Adams (CBA) 88, Conor Weingarten (Niskayuna) 88, Tyuler Lesniewski (Shenendehowa) 88, Frank Parisi (CBA) 89, Alex Kinney (Queensbury) 89, Riley Kain (Queensbury) 89, Brady Palladino (Averill Park) 90, Jack Fox (Ballston Spa) 90, Mark Uhlig (LaSalle). 90