Berkshire County’s top golfers will gain a little experience on the course set to host the Western Massa chusetts tournament as they battle for county bragging rights on Sunday.
The Stockbridge Golf Club will host Sunday’s Berkshire Classic and then the Western Mass. Division II tournament on Oct. 22. Both tournaments are 18-hole competitions, while all regular season matches are nine holes.
"After playing nine holes so often for six weeks, we really need to step our game up a little bit and play 18 holes as much as we can in the next week," Drury’s Alex Boulger said after his team’s win over Hoosac on Wednesday. "Our top six are all members at Taconic [Country Club], so over the summer we play 18. It’s just getting back to it."
It will be a change from the season, but it’s nothing most golfers haven’t done. Like Boulger, most high school golfers are members at 18-hole golf courses, meaning they play 18 holes over the summer and on weekends throughout the season.
"The biggest change is endurance," Hoosac Valley’s Chad Alibozek said. "When you’re playing the 10th hole, you’d normally be done so it’s just a little longer. I’ve been playing 18 on the weekends so I’m used to the 18."
The mental side of playing 18 will also come into play. Stockbridge is a par-71 course that features four par-5 holes. High school coaches preach recovery all season long on nine-hole courses, it will be even more important on an 18-hole course.
Often times after having a bad hole, players tend to panic. They’ll start trying to drive the ball farther and make heroic shots in an effort to save their scores. Coaches try to make sure their players don’t do that.
"You have to realize you have 16 or 17 more holes ahead of you," Hoosac Valley coach Jay Sniezek said. "It’s a really long grind and you have to just keep grinding it out. In the end, whoever does that the best has the best chance at winning."
Last year, Alibozek bogeyed the first two holes, but was able to use the final 16 holes to recover and win the tournament. Last year’s tournament was at Berkshire Hills Country Club, but two years ago the tournament was played at Stockbridge.
Stockbridge Golf Club is not home to any high school team, meaning players haven’t had a chance to play there this season as part of the high school schedule. While most would like to win the tournament, learning the course will be on the brains of many golfers participating in both tournaments.
The top three golfers from every team in the county are eligible to play in the tournament. Boulger, Matt Lawrence and Nick Bator will be playing for Drury. Hoosac’s Alibozek, Mike Barnes and Keith Pero will be on the course for Hoosac, and Mount Greylock will send Matt Wiseman, Aaron St. Martin and Mike Strizzi.
Alibozek will be the only member from Hoosac participating in Western Mass., as the Hurricanes didn’t qualify as a team this season. Drury did qualify and all six of its members will be at the Western Mass. tournament.
"I don’t normally get to [play at Stockbridge] so I’m going to get to play every hole before Western Mass.," Alibozek said. "It’s going to give me an idea of what to hit and if I hit a bad shot I can really look at what I did wrong. It will help me know where I need to be and where I need to position myself on the fairways."
Boulger and Lawrence haven’t had a chance to play in the Western Mass. tournament before, so this weekend’s classic will give them a bit of a warmup.
"[This weekend] is going to give me a better idea of the competition and what I need to shoot at [Western Mass.]," Boulger said. "Should give me an idea of how we need to shoot to win."