Honesdale's varsity golf team closed out a perfect Lackawanna League season Thursday night with a decisive win over Forest City. The Hornets rolled to a 71/2 - 11/2 victory at HGC, thus earning the Northern Division championship with an 11-0 record.
Andrew Cliff plopped his bag down at the back of the ninth green. He looked up at the gallery, shook his head and sighed dramatically.
“I had a hard time out there today,” he said, a breath-taking sunset bathing his face in an eerie pinkish light. “It was tough to focus.”
Considering the circumstances, that’s understandable. Cliff and his teammates were on the brink of Honesdale golfing history. The Hornets carried a perfect 10-0 record with them into Thursday’s match. All the local lads had to do was beat Forest City to cap an undefeated Lackawanna League season.
With that win would also come another Northern Division championship...and a #1 seed in the upcoming play-off tournament.
“How are we doing?” Andrew asked.
When told that Honesdale had all but sealed the deal on a lopsided win, Cliff couldn’t suppress a big smile. Then, he heard that nobody had broken 40 on a dark, windy afternoon.
“Really?” he said, incredulous, the smile quickly extinguished.
Cliff unsheathed his putter and strode across the green. Although Andrew had already closed out his match against Jeremy McGovern, he had some unfinished business. Medalist honors were still very much up for grabs.
“Andrew is just about the most competitive player we’ve ever had here,” Coach Dan O’Neill told TWI Sports with a laugh. “He’s very focused and very driven.”
Not surprisingly, Cliff knocked down that last tricky final putt. He walked back to his bag, scorecard in hand and the smile back on his face. Andrew had just completed a round of 38, leading the Hornets to a dominating 71/2 - 11/2 victory over the Foresters.
Now, the celebration could safely begin. Honesdale was now officially the Northern Division champion. This revelation was music to the ears of Coach O’Neill.
“We’ve come very close on a number of occasions, but this is our first undefeated season in the Lackawanna League,” he said. “This has been an outstanding season and something I never could have predicted at the start of the year.”
With the win, Honesdale earns the top seed and a bye in the opening round of the post season. The Hornets will host their first play-off match next week. In all likelihood, the Red & Black will face the winner of Monday’s battle between Forest City and North Pocono.
Stay tuned to TWI Sports for further information as it becomes available.
A big crowd attended Thurs-day’s match for two reasons.
First and most importantly, the Hornets were on the verge of a perfect season. Secondly, six Honesdale golfers were competing in their final regular season event. Andrew Cliff, Casey Stengel, Evan Kussoff, Eric Avery, Laurel Werner and Arielle Burkavage bade a bittersweet farewell to Maple City fans.
“This is an excellent group of seniors,” said Coach O’Neill. “Every one of them has played a part in what we accomplished this season as a team. We’re going to miss them all.”
Cliff is a four-year veteran of the program. Andrew served as a team captain this year and posted an outstanding 9-2 record in league play. He is a member of the National Honor Society who plays baseball and chess.
He’s planning to attend college to continue his links career and to major in golf management. Andrew is the son of Graham & Mary Jo Cliff.
Stengel’s ‘08 biography is nearly identical with Cliff’s. Casey is a four-year member of the squad and another team captain. He also recorded a 9-2 record in Northern Division action.
Casey is the son of Michael & Elizabeth Stengel. He’s a member of the National Honor Society who plans to attend a four-year college, majoring in Psychology or Criminal Justice.
Kussoff has been playing golf at the varsity level for three years. Evan is yet another member of the National Honor Society who’s very active in school government. He is class treasurer and an officer of the Student Council.
Evan is the son of Andrew & Deborah Kussoff. He hopes to attend PSU Worthington in the fall and major in Environmental Science.
Werner and Burkavage are on the cutting edge of Honesdale’s burgeoning girls’ golf program. Laurel and Arielle have both been involved for three years and each boasts an impressive scholastic resume.
“These girls are very patient and easy to work with,” said Coach O’Neill. “Laurel and Arielle have set a great example for the younger girls. They’ve never been intimidated playing against the boys and that’s good to see.”
Laurel is the daughter Terry & Bonnie Werner. She’s a member of the wrestling cheerleading squad who volunteers her time to help with local Special Olympics. Werner plans to attend a four-year college and major in Elementary Education.
Arielle is the daughter of Don & Deb Burkavage. She earned a place in the National Honor Society and is a member of the Student Council. Burkavage hopes to attend college, then continue on to medical school.
Eric Avery is the final member of this group, but he wasn’t in attendance at Thursday’s Senior Night ceremony.
“Eric shot some very nice rounds,” said Coach O’Neill. “He pushed the starters. They knew they didn’t have to look back too far to see someone like Eric nipping at their heels.”
On the Course
While Cliff led Honesdale’s charge against Forest City, another Hornet was just one solid round away from an amazing individual accomplishment.
Ben Krempasky needed one more win to finish out his season undefeated. A junior who Coach O’Neill calls “our most consistent player,” Krempasky cemented his place in Hornet history with a 4&3 decision over Dom Sparks.
Krempasky’s round of 40 also carried Honesdale to a key better ball win. Ben will head to the Lackawanna League play-offs sporting an 11-0 Northern Division record. He’s 12-0 overall.
“Ben didn’t surprise me at all,” said Coach O’Neill. “He worked extremely hard during the summer. Ben played alot of golf and even spent a week in Myrtle Beach being tutored by a club pro. He’s become a very good golfer.”
Cody Dirlam & Stengel took the pressure off Honesdale right away. These two Hornets combined to sweep all three points in the first group.
Dirlam carded a 43 and dealt Forest City’s Katie Zefran (51) a 4&3 defeat. Stengel posted a 45, good for a 2&1 win over Cody Blodnikar (47). This dynamic duo also rolled to a 3&2 better ball triumph.
Mike Kussoff suffered Honesdale’s lone individual match play loss. However, the scrappy young Hornet didn’t go down without a fight. Mike trailed by two holes with three to play, but proceeded to reel off consecutive birdies at seven and eight.
Kussoff and Wade Malicky went to the final tee box all square, but Forest City’s best player rallied to win. Malicky parred the last hole for a 1-up victory.
Adam Rogers forged a split in the six hole, shooting 49 in his battle with Kyle Howell (51).