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Golf Player of the Year: Granby senior Matt Iczkowski

Matt Iczkowski of Granby during the PVIAV Boys Invitational Golf Tournament Monday afternoon in Belchertown.

CAROL LOLLIS

Matt Iczkowski of Granby during the PVIAV Boys Invitational Golf Tournament Monday afternoon in Belchertown. CAROL LOLLIS Purchase photo reprints »

The vagaries of high school golf make it extremely difficult to repeat as a sectional champion, with the championship tournaments consisting of one 18-hole round, possibly at an unfamiliar course, usually on a cold and windy late fall morning.

All of which was the case for Granby golfer Matt Iczkowski, but nothing affected him in accomplishing his goal of back-to-back Western Massachusetts Division 2 titles.

For the second straight year, the Southwick resident and Holyoke Catholic senior has been named the Daily Hampshire Gazette Golf Player of the Year.

“My season was a learning experience,” Iczkowski said. “With it being my senior year, I’m putting a lot of my attention on school and the college application process. And golf was also something I worked really hard on coming off such a successful season last year. It’s a matter of balancing everything, so I thought it went really well.”

Iczkowski shot a 2-over par 74 at Stockbridge Country Club on Oct. 22, edging Chad Alibozek of Hoosac Valley by one stroke. No other player in the field had a round better than 83.

“They made a big deal about Division 1 champion (Billy Walthouse of Longmeadow) winning back-to-back titles, but Matt winning two straight Division 2 titles, I’m not sure when that was last done,” said Burke. “It’s pretty special for anybody to repeat because it’s so difficult in golf, especially considering the late fall conditions. Both years Matt won the tournament in tough conditions, which speaks volumes about the quality player he is.”

Coming off a team sectional title in 2011, Iczkowski and the Rams came up just short of a repeat, losing on a tiebreaker to Palmer.

“That was a little bittersweet,” said Iczkowski. “But for us to perform as well as we did after losing some seniors from last year’s team, I think it was a really good showing for our team.”

After a fifth-place finish at the state tournament in 2011, Iczkowski had a disappointing showing this year with a round of 81, which tied him for 27th place.

“At states I really just had one of those off days that can happen in golf, so it’s hard to complain about anything, especially after winning Western Mass. again,” he said. “That was definitely a goal of mine to win that again, it was in the back of my mind. But really I just went out there, played the best I possibly could and had a lot of fun.”

During the regular season, his 12-1 match play record against every opponent’s top player helped lead Granby to a 12-1 record and the Bi-County East title. Despite playing home matches at an entirely new course, Cold Spring Country Club in Belchertown, his scoring average was roughly 38.

“We played our home matches on a much more difficult course, which was seen at the PVIAC individual tournament there,” Burke said. “A lot of good players struggled that day, shooting in the 80s. Some people asked me what was wrong with Matt because he wasn’t quite at the level of last year, and there was nothing wrong. Cold Spring is a tough, quirky course. So I think his game was pretty much the same.”

Iczkowski said, “Cold Spring is quite different from The Ledges, so playing there was a new experience. It’s a harder scoring course but we all got used to it after a while.”

At the inaugural PVIAC individual championship tournament on Oct. 8, Iczkowski competed against all the best players in the Pioneer Valley and finished tied for second with Walthouse behind only Franklin Tech’s Troy Miller, the eventual state Division 3 champion.

“Not only did the kid from Franklin Tech win that tournament, I think five of the top six were from either D2 or D3,” said Burke. “So in golf, divisions don’t really matter. A great player in Division 2 or 3 would likely be just as good if he played for a Division 1 school. Matt clearly showed he was at least as good as everyone else who played high school golf in recent seasons.”

Iczkowski has been accepted to Fairfield University, Providence College and High Point (N.C.) University, while he’s still waiting on Bentley College. An exceptional student, his priority in picking the right college will be academics over golf, but he would no doubt like to take his career to the next level.

He isn’t yet leaning toward a particular school, but he said he’d have an opportunity to play at both Bentley and Fairfield.

“Matt’s a great student and a really humble kid,” said Burke. “He never made a big deal about the awards or the accolades from it. He loves the game, and will stay in the game in one way or another. Matt’s just a down-to-earth, focused kid and a pleasure to be around. I may have been his coach, but really there wasn’t much I could teach him.”

Said Iczkowski, “This year proved as an affirmation of what I accomplished last year in terms of playing consistent golf. Skillwise I’ve improved a little bit, but my main improvements were on the mental side. I showed I could rebound from a tough start to a round. That ability stood out this year, and keeping a strong mentality is something I can take out of high school golf into a potential college career.”

Michael Wilkinson can be reached at mwilkinson@gazettenet.com.

First team

Brian Bak, sophomore, South Hadley

Joe Ciolek, junior, South Hadley

Shane Hollenbeck, sophomore, Granby

Matt Iczkowski, senior, Granby

Austin McCreary, junior, Northampton

Andrew Omer, junior, Hopkins Academy

Sean Ryan, sophomore, Hampshire

Theo Viola, junior, Northampton

Honorable mention

Jake Antosz, junior, Hampshire

Jeff Bond, senior, Northampton

Austin Brighenti, junior, Hopkins Academy

Steve Bruscoe, sophomore, Smith Academy

Spencer Butterfield, freshman, Hopkins Academy

Rob Carmel, senior, Hampshire

Jake Conroy, senior, Frontier Regional

Tom Dowd, senior, South Hadley

Django Ellenhorn, junior, Amherst Regional

Caleb Farnham, eighth grade, Hopkins Academy

Kevin Garbacik, senior, South Hadley

Katy McClafflin, senior, Granby

Matt Muccino, sophomore, Smith Academy

John Noonan, sophomore, Amherst Regional

Cody Payson, junior, Easthampton

Carl Teschke, freshman, Belchertown

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