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Matt Iczkowski, Granby golf out to defend sectional titles

Matt Iczkowski of Granby on Monday repeated as the individual champion in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Golf Tournament. He is seen here competing in  the PVIAC Boys Invitational Golf Tournament on Oct. 8 in  Belchertown.

 (Gazette file photo)

Matt Iczkowski of Granby on Monday repeated as the individual champion in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Golf Tournament. He is seen here competing in the PVIAC Boys Invitational Golf Tournament on Oct. 8 in Belchertown. (Gazette file photo) Purchase photo reprints »

In order to defend their respective Western Massachusetts Division 2 titles on Monday, Matt Iczkowski and the Granby golf team will need to conquer an unfamiliar course.

The sectional tournament is set for a 10 a.m. shotgun start at Stockbridge Golf Club, a course none of the Rams will have played until they head out for a practice round today.

“I’ve heard from a couple players and from Coach Burke that it’s pretty straightforward, nothing too tricky,” Iczkowski said. “We’ll find out (Thursday) when we have a practice round. Really the only way to get a grasp of a course is to play it.”

Iczkowski identified Mahar’s Zack Adams and Hampshire’s Sean Ryan as the other main contenders for the individual title. In Granby’s season finale Wednesday against Mahar, Adams defeated Iczkowski by a stroke for the second straight season, ending the Southwick native and Holyoke Catholic senior’s undefeated record.

As a junior, Iczkowski fired a 2-over 73 at Franconia in Springfield to earn the individual title. Teammate Shane Hollenbeck tied with Ryan for seventh last year at 85, while Adams tied for ninth with an 86.

“It would mean a lot to repeat, to be able to follow up after winning as a junior and cap off my career with another title would be great,” Iczkowski said. “My confidence level is similar to last year. I try not to be overconfident and want to have a clear mind and not put expectations too high. My focus will be to play some good golf.”

If the PVIAC individual tournament on Oct. 8 is any indication, Iczkowski has a shot. He was the top finisher among Division 2 players and tied for second overall with a 75.

Granby, which is coming off its first team title since 1976, finished the regular season 12-1, and won the outright Bi-County East title for the second year in a row at 9-1.

“Just like last year, we hope Matt shoots a really low score so our next three can come in with reasonable numbers that put together can mean a winning score,” Burke said. “Matt and Shane both have solid experience in stroke play, but everyone else is used to playing nine holes in match play. How those other kids adjust will determine how we finish. I tell them, ‘Don’t count strokes, just make every stroke count.’ That’s the attitude you need to have in these tournaments. Every shot could make the difference.”

With Division 2 taking the top four of six scores into account for the team total, the two-through-four lineup of Shane Hollenbeck, Ben Modzelesky and Katy McLaflin will likely make the difference.

“As a team, we all need to play our own games and not worry about what anyone else is shooting,” Iczkowski said. “If we all play the best we can, we’ll have a good shot. But we take the attitude of whatever happens, happens.”

Burke feels Palmer (15-2), which won the Bi-County West, should be considered the favorite heading into Monday.

Palmer “has five, six kids who shoot in the 30s regularly,” he said. “But it’s tough to tell what’s going to happen in a one-day tournament. If things fall right for us, it’s certainly possible for us to win it again.”

Also competing in the Division 2 tournament will be Hampshire Regional, Frontier Regional and Belchertown, last season’s runner-up. Frontier’s Nate Patterson and Jake Conroy should finish fairly high in the individual competition.

The Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship is at Elmcrest Country Club in East Longmeadow on Monday morning. South Hadley and Northampton qualified, but it will be a challenge for either to crack the top three of Longmeadow, East Longmeadow and Minnechaug. The top six scores count in Division 1.

Also on Monday is the Division 3 tournament at Tekoa Country Club in Westfield with Hopkins Academy and Smith Academy competing. Hopkins’ overall depth makes them a contender for the team title, while Smith’s Steve Bruscoe has emerged as the Falcons’ top player this season with a shot at competing for an individual crown. The best four of six scores count in Div. 3.

WILCOX LEAVES SMITH — The lure of coaching his hometown team was enough for Ted Wilcox to leave the Smith Academy girls basketball program he rebuilt.

Wilcox, a Turners Falls resident for the last 20 years, resigned as the Falcons head coach over the weekend to take over the Indians’ program.

Coaching the Turners varsity team “is something I’ve always wanted to do. I love everything about Smith and I know that program has a bright future, but I couldn’t turn down the opportunity,” said Wilcox, who coached as an assistant at Turners for seven years prior to taking over the Smith program. “I know we have a lot of work to do (at Turners), but I’m excited for the challenge.”

The Indians finished 4-16 last year and went 1-19 in each of the two previous seasons.

Wilcox became Smith’s head coach prior to the 2008-09 season and reached the postseason in all four years on the Falcons’ sidelines.

After going 3-17 the year before he arrived, Smith went 56-32 under Wilcox, including 20-3 during the 2009-10 season, which ended in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament championship game.

“Smith Academy is a first-class operation from the top down,” Wilcox said. “It is a great group of kids. I will still think of them as my kids.”

Those interested in applying for the Smith Academy girls basketball varsity job, or the middle school boys basketball job, should contact athletic director David Keir, Smith Academy, 34 School Street, Hatfield, MA, 01038.

GORDON LEAVES RED HAWKS — For the first time since the mid-1970s, the Frontier Regional wrestling team will be coached this winter by someone other than Don Gordon, who is leaving the program after 36 years.

Gordon won over 200 matches in his career with the Red Hawks.

Anyone interested in the varsity wrestling job can contact Darius Modestow at Frontier Regional, 113 North Main Street, South Deerfield, MA, 01373. Modestow’s email address is modestowd@frsd.deerfield.ma.us.

GAME OF THE WEEK — Hopkins Academy boys soccer at Smith Academy, Monday, 3:30 p.m.

The archrivals and McGrath South foes square off in a match that could determine the league championship.

The Golden Hawks (12-1-1, 4-0) defeated the Falcons (11-1-2, 4-1-1) in the first meeting, 3-0 in Hadley on Sept. 14.

Smith has been dynamite ever since, however, posting a 9-0-2 record and allowing just three goals over that time.

Hopkins, meanwhile, has outscored its opponents 51-4 this year.

Staff writer Jim Pignatiello contributed to this report.

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

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