By Greg Gulas
In John Metzinger’s first season as Canfield High’s boys golf coach, the Cardinals finished runners-up in last year’s All-American Conference American Division. They shot a 317 overall in sectional action, narrowly missing the cut and an opportunity to advance to district play.
An acceptable run for many scholastic programs, it just wasn’t quite the standard expected of either the Cards or by Metzinger, who serves as assistant golf professional at Tippecanoe Country Club.
They are set to tee-off today at 9 a.m. in the AAC Tournament, which will be held at Trumbull Country Club in Warren.
“Shooting 317 in any other year usually is enough to get you out of the sectionals and into the district,” Metzinger said. “That wasn’t the case last year and while everyone was disappointed, falling short has given us a daily reminder, both during the off-season and this fall of what needs to be done in order to get back to that level of play.”
Returning the top seven players from last season’s conference runner-up squad, the Cardinals are 10-3 overall (they were 9-5 in 2012). With a 10-2 league mark, they’ve already clinched a share of the division title with an opportunity to win it outright.
“The key this year has been that our players have played together for quite some time and are a cohesive unit,” Metzinger said. “They’re good friends off the course and remain very competitive while on, taking my instruction from the range right with them when they are ready to play.”
This year’s top seven players are: senior Dom Carano, The Vindicator’s 2012 Junior Greatest Golfer (age 15-17) winner; junior Vince Leone; senior Jarrett Vrabel; junior Charlie Loomis; sophomore Andrew Letscher; senior Matt Popovich; and junior Mike Pacifico.
After starting the season with seven consecutive victories, the Cardinals have won their last two matches (Hubbard and Struthers).
Carano, tops on the team with a 72.4 average, was a first-team All-AAC and Division I All-Northeast District selection last season. He’s been medalist nine times and runner-up twice.
“This has simply been the opportunity of a lifetime,” Carano said. “Anyone who plays high school sports should have the experience I’ve had.”
Carano is the one player with a sub-80 average while the other six players range in from 82-89 per 18-holes played.
Leone said having a veteran cast has helped with the main goal now to play their best in the conference and tournament.
Vrabel, who also plays basketball, is a member of the National Honor Society.
Loomis said unfinished business still remains.
“We’ve finished well but the season is far from over,” Loomis said. “We still have goals that we want to accomplish.”
Letscher said senior leadership had a huge impact on the underclassmen.
“Our seniors basically led way,” he said. “We had a fun, competitive year because all of the seniors showed leadership, and that means taking charge in more ways than just their overall scores.”
While Metzinger feels like his team is heading into conference play on a high note, he added that they need to keep their competitive edge.
“If we continue to play like we have been then we should be alright,” Metzinger said. “Minimizing mistakes and course management is also very important. A good short game will go a long way for every team, not just us.”
Sectional play will begin on Oct. 2 at Ravenna’s Windmill Lakes Golf Course.