Vol. LXI, No. 21
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The NJSIAA Tournament of Champions state golf tournament is a pressure cooker than can wilt the nerves of even the most confident of players.
Bringing a No. 1 ranking into the competition last Monday at the Burlington Country Club in Westhampton, the Princeton High boys' golf team had reason to feel an additional layer of tension as the squad with a target on its back.
PHS head coach Sheryl Severance, though, saw a sense of calm in her players as the veteran team went about its business. "They were very optimistic and relaxed, much more relaxed than I thought they'd be," said Severance. "They were feeling good. They knew it was more than a normal match but we went to lengths to relax and get them to think it's just a game of golf."
The composed PHS squad went on to show that it had a lot of game as it took the Group III state title and finished second overall in the event.
The Little Tigers' top four players combined for a 319, just four strokes behind the overall champion Gloucester Catholic. PHS finished seven strokes better than third place Christian Brothers and eight strokes better than Millburn, the second-best Group III team.
PHS senior star Peter Teifer was the team's low man, shooting a six-over 76 to put him ninth in the individual standings. Teifer was followed by Will Madden with an 80 while Curtis Smith carded an 81 and senior George Graham posted an 82.
Severance said the team's mood was a little less sanguine after the competition. "They weren't happy with their performance," said Severance. "They thought they should've done better."
The coach, though, disagreed with her players' assessment. "I'm very happy," said Severance. "It was a course that was playing long. It has narrow fairways and the rough was very thick. It was windy on and off; it was a good championship course."
It was good for the team to bring home the state title. "I hope it means a lot, we're losing two very good players so who knows when it will happen again," added Severance, who is in her 15th year guiding the program.
"It's the first state title for the school since the boys' soccer team win in 2002. It's the first state title ever for the golf team as far as I know. It should draw attention around the school."
Senior star Teifer certainly drew attention as he put together a superb final campaign. "Peter played well but he was disappointed," said Severance. "I think his maturity has made a difference; he's a seasoned player. He's played well in a lot of tournaments this year; he's been on the varsity since day one."
The Little Tigers other top players have shown a maturity as they have become comfortable with their roles. "They are very consistent," asserted Severance. "They weren't worried about beating the guy next to them like last year when they had to fight to get into the lineup; they just worried about playing their game."
And they have displayed quite a game all season long. "I think it is a very driven team; they are very determined and extremely talented," said Severance, whose team won the Mercer County Tournament team title and has gone 14-1 in dual matches this spring. "I'm glad they were able to show their talent."
They also showed a team unity that is rare in an individual sport like golf. "We went to dinner after the tournament and they said they would rather win as a team than have one individual be a champion," recalled Severance. "Peter was the first person to say that, I think that's big of him. I really like that; I think that says a lot about this group."
A group that coolly delivered a big statement last Monday as it made school history.
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