Joe Doyle and Connor Hallenbeck remember playing golf together when they were 10 years old.
The two were inseparable back then. They went to the same preschool, the same golf camps, and played in the same junior tournaments.
Now, Doyle and Hallenbeck are seniors on the Hopkinton golf team, and have helped lead their squad to a 12-0 record. There are 12 seniors on the roster and the majority played together before high school.
“We’ve really just been hanging out since we were 10 years old,” said senior Quinn O’Connor. “Some summers when we were younger . . . the nine of us were going out playing golf every single day and it’s been a great journey with them.”
Doyle remembers playing with cocaptain Drew Morse when they were both in sixth grade.
“I’ve known Drew for pretty much my entire life,” said Doyle. “When we were younger I remember us putting five dollars on a round to keep it competitive . . . it was just so fun.”
‘The depth of our team is the most incredible thing’
Hopkinton golf coach Bill Phaneuf, on his unbeaten (12-0) squad led by 12 seniors.
From that first taste of competitive golf to competing for Hopkinton, Doyle and Morse have experienced this season’s success together and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve enjoyed every second of playing with him and I’ve enjoyed watching us both improve so much,” said Doyle. “I remember back in seventh grade he and I were throwing up 50′s, and now we’re both going under par consistently.”
Senior Leo Shimmura moved to the Hopkinton area when he was in seventh grade. While his connection wasn’t built over years of playing together as kids, he and Morse shared a common bond.
“Drew and I are the only two current seniors that have played on varsity since freshman year,” said Shimmura. “I remember one week when we were both benched a week on varsity . . . we went to the practice green and putted for two hours.
“Drew was the bridge that let me into the group . . . we pulled each other up to our pinnacle as players.”
Now, Hopkinton is undefeated and creating something special as a farewell to its seniors. Head coach Bill Phaneuf believes his team has the tools to make a deep postseason run in Division 1.
“The depth of our team is the most incredible thing . . . We’ve had multiple times where six or eight guys shot a 36 or 38,” he said. “Any one of our top 12 can get under par in any match.”
In the middle of Hopkinton’s senior-laden squad is No. 2 golfer Parker Winn, a sophomore. He knows the team will look drastically different next year, and is just trying to enjoy the ride as long as possible this season.
“It’s going to be really weird not playing with those guys because I started my high school career with them,” Winn said. “Next year my focus will be doing all I can to make everybody else better around me.”
Many of the players believe their familiarity off the course gives them an edge in competition.
“While we’re playing, we help each other out with technique, talk through the next hole or what went wrong,” said Shimmura. “If one of us misses a putt or mentally struggling, we always give each other a word [of encouragement]. Being really close friends really helps with that support.”
“There’s nothing like it,” added Hallenbeck, another cocaptain. “When we play together there’s just a different comfort level which makes it a lot easier to play better . . . it’s definitely good to know that you have someone next to you that you can lean on and ask for advice or encouragement when you’re struggling.”
With only half a season left together, the clock is ticking.
“The thought of this being our last year is really motivating to all of us to shoot our best because we don’t want to leave anything out on the course,” Shimmura said. “We won’t have any time to redeem ourselves.”
“Hopefully we can stay undefeated and do well at states,” said Morse. “I want to have a memorable final year.”
Phaneuf has been preparing for the departure of his seniors since the beginning of this season.
“I started thinking about the future of the team at tryouts,” he said. “I am super focused on next year . . . We are trying to get the kids who will be the future of the program.”
The senior core of the Hopkinton golf team is closely knit and their bond won’t be broken even when they graduate.
“It’s kind of sad that it’s coming to an end, but it’s not over just yet,” said Doyle.
▪ For the fifth straight year, Winchester won the Middlesex League Shootout at Bear Hill Country Club on Thursday. The Red and Black were led by John Scully, Carson Muse, and Cole Cassidy, each of whom shot a 72 to finish in a three-way tie for first place.in the 18-hole event.
Cassidy, the team’s No. 3 player and junior cocaptain, took the individual title by winning a nearest-to-the-pin, tie-breaker challenge over Scully by hitting his shot to within 10 feet.
“It was unbelievable,” said Winchester coach Tom Walsh. “We have had a Middlesex Shootout for all the 21 years I’ve been coaching and we’ve never had an individual tie, let alone a three-person tie.”
Winchester won the event with a score of 216. The closest scores were Belmont and Reading at 253.
▪ The Catholic Conference championship will be held Sunday at Wachusett CC in West Boylston, and the field is projected to be stacked. Headlining is St. John’s of Shrewsbury (9-1) and Xaverian (9-1). The Pioneers fell to the Hawks on Thursday, 225-228, but they will meet again.
“We’re looking forward to the competition,” said St. John’s coach coach Sean Noonan. “To get an 18-hole event with six players is invaluable this time of year.”
For many of the top teams in the conference, Sunday’s conference match is just a precursor to the district and state tournaments in mid-October.