BOXFORD — The expectations Kevin Keilty had for the Beverly High golf team when he was named head coach this summer had little to do with performance.
Performance, Keilty believes, is a byproduct of commitment.
“I expected them to commit to the program and wanted to build it the same way they would with any other varsity sport,” Keilty said. “A lot of kids who play golf, it’s not their No. 1 sport, but I wanted them to realize that during the season it was their No. 1 sport. You’re either 100 percent committed or you’re not. The only way to be successful is to put in the work and be committed.”
The Panthers obviously bought into Keilty’s system rather quickly.
Keilty admits that there were a few small bumps in the early portion of the season, but the Panthers adapted to the new coach’s belief that practice time should be used for a purpose.
Even though Keilty had only previously been the junior varsity golf coach at Salem High, he understood that sometimes high school golf is viewed as a more laid-back sport.
“It was a good transition. He’s a first-year (varsity) golf coach and he wasn’t out there trying to teach us how to play golf,” senior captain Sam Shorr said. “He wanted to be a coach and I think he accomplished that. He definitely got more matches in and more playing. That’s the biggest thing; he encouraged us to get out there and play more.”
Beverly’s commitment to playing more and putting in the effort in practice immediately translated into wins.
The Panthers had a phenomenal season, winning all 10 of their Northeastern Conference matches and finishing 13-2-1 overall. Beverly hopes to extend its season by advancing in the Division 2 North Sectional Tournament today at Far Corner Golf Course in Boxford today (9 a.m. shotgun tee time).
Beverly, Masconomet and Marblehead will each be competing in team competition while Salem’s No. 1 player, Tim Richmond, will compete as an individual.
The sectional will feature 10 teams — Belmont, Burlington, Concord-Carlisle, North Andover, Reading, Tewksbury and Winchester join the North Shore trio — with the top two advancing to the state finals.
Each team is made up of six golfers and the lowest four scores will account for the team score.
Depth has been a strength for the Panthers the entire fall, and while that may have made Keilty’s job of filling out the lineup card more difficult, it’s also the main reason why Beverly has a great chance to advance.
The Panthers top four players — senior captains Kevin Dyer, Shorr and Dustin Dube, plus junior Shamus Desmond — consistently go low. Junior Josh Cairns and sophomore Ted Leathersich are slightly less consistent but very capable of posting scores at or below par.
“It helps a lot when you can rely on your sixth guy shooting a 77. You know your team is pretty good then,” Dyer, the NEC co-Player of the Year along with Salem’s Richmond, said. “We played B.C. High last Tuesday and they’re really good. We learned how competitive and deep their team was. We knew that we wanted to be like that and we have the potential to be that good.”
One small area of concern for the Panthers today is the format.
All NEC league matches are match play. Tournament play comes down to strokes, so non-league matches like the one Beverly had with B.C. High were critical for preparation.
The competition within the team could also prove to be beneficial for the Panthers.
Keilty, who shared the NEC Coach of the Year Award with Peabody’s Peter Cronan this year, had an extremely difficult decision in trying to whittle his lineup down to six players. Junior Craig Hall, Chris Sinclair and Bryce Mitchell, and senior captain Jay Richardson were each in the mix for the final two lineup spots, and that quartet was instrumental in Beverly’s regular season success.
“If Ted went out with Craig, Chris and Bryce and played 18 holes I think they would each have a 25 percent chance of having the low score that day,” Keilty said. “They did it all year. It was a different one out of the four that played the best. Craig and Chris are probably the most consistent of that group and Ted and Bryce are not as consistent, but they have the capability of shooting very low if they’re on.”
Keilty is confident that his team can contend today with the strength at the top of the lineup and the potential at the tail end.
“If they can play an A-minus game, maybe even a B-plus from the top kids, then I think we can get four scores low enough to get into the top two to move on,” Keilty said. “Skill-wise and talent-wise we are as good as any team in the field. If we’re able to focus and concentrate and play intelligent golf in stroke play we have a shot.”