Make that three.
After winning Niagara-Orleans League championships in 2011 and 2012, the Barker golf team rolled through the 2013 regular season with a 13-0-1 record, marked by consistent play from cornerstone athletes Brad Wilson, Alonzo St. Louis and Mitch Luckman.
For coach Tim Daley and his squad, the Raiders’ final challenge in the quest for a three-peat came yesterday at Willowbrook, in the all-league tournament that brought together all eight N-O teams for 18 holes of play. Heading into the all-league, Barker maintained a comfortable seven-point lead in the standings and had the title all but secured, but Daley cautioned his team to take nothing for granted.
The players heeded their coach’s message quite well. Wilson shot 79, St. Louis shot 83, and the Raiders’ five-man score of 453 was enough for a 23-stroke victory over Newfane, on an overcast but pleasant afternoon on Willowbrook’s North and South courses.
Once again, the Raiders are Niagara-Orleans League champs.
“It feels great,” Daley said. “I’m happy for the kids; they’ve put in a lot of effort this year. It’s been a three-year process, and it all goes back to our seniors this year, who started as freshmen and worked hard throughout those four years. Getting to where we’re at today, I’m really excited for them. It’s been fun to see them grow.”
Daley fondly reflected on the time spent watching his core group of seniors develop — in particular, Luckman, St. Louis and the injured Nick Provencher. When the group started as freshmen, Barker was stuck in neutral as a team, frequently finishing in the middle of the pack in Niagara-Orleans League play.
Then in the 2011 season, after a 3-5 start, the Raiders won their last six matches of the regular season and the league championship. Barker hasn’t lost a match since.
Daley gives credits to his players for their dedication to improving their games throughout the spring and summer, despite the time demands of other sports such as baseball. The coach possesses a comprehensive knowledge of the game’s fundamentals — that he strives to instill in his team during fall practice — but knows that a golfer’s entire swing and technique cannot change dramatically during such an abbreviated fall season.
“I think we’ve seen success because our guys have been able to listen, take the little bits of advice I give them and use it to their advantage,” Daley said. “It’s tough in such a short season to really try and change someone’s swing, so it goes back to putting in the time and effort in the summer.”
St. Louis in particular credits Daley for helping improve his grip, recalling a time in a recent practice where he made a small grip alteration and suddenly was able to hit a 7-iron 180 yards uphill, a quick improvement from his previous distance capability.
St. Louis put the lessons to good use, shooting an 83 yesterday that was good for third place as an individual. Wilson’s 79 gave him medalist honors, and Luckman finished in eighth place after a 90. Barker’s Spencer Zimmerman tied for 10th with a 93, as the Raiders’ consistency paid off in the victory.
Daley and St. Louis also wanted to credit the injured Provencher (shoulder) for lending help and support throughout the season. Although his recovery hasn’t progressed to the point where he can play full rounds, Provencher frequently attended practice and played a few holes as the season wrapped up, and his presence was felt at Willowbrook.
Put it all together, and it added up to another league championship for the Raiders.
“Coach Daley has excellent understanding of game of golf,” Barker athletic director Dave Carson said. “Coupled with just an excellent rapport he has with the kids, they kept it going from the foundation set by former coach Bob Roth and moved it forward. That was the goal all along, to continue the success, and the team has done a great job.”
And for St. Louis, it marked a memorable achievement for a group of kids that grew together as golfers and people throughout their high school years.
“We were such a young group when we started coming up,” St. Louis said. “To go from being young kids to winning this three straight years, it’s pretty awesome. It was definitely a good year.”