H.S. Golf Notebook: Fowles brothers look to power defending WMass champion Northampton

  • Galen and Reilly Fowles keyed Northampton to its first Western Massachusetts golf championship last season. The brothers are back to help the Blue Devils defend their title. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Galen and Reilly Fowles keyed Northampton to its first Western Massachusetts golf championship last season. The brothers are back to help the Blue Devils defend their title. STAFF PHOTO/KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer 
Published: 8/31/2022 3:37:18 PM
Modified: 8/31/2022 3:37:06 PM

The Northampton golf team made history at last year’s Western Mass. tournament, winning the sectional title for the first time in 65 years. This year, the Blue Devils return nearly all of that championship-winning squad, and could be an even more formidable foe as the fall unwinds.

The group will be led once again by the Fowles brothers — sophomore Reilly and junior Galen. The brothers served as the team’s Nos. 1 and 2 golfers last year, and head coach Michael Chapdelaine says they’ll stay there this season. So far, they’ve proven that they belong at the top – Reilly shot a 38 in his first match against South Hadley at The Ledges on Tuesday, while Galen made a statement with a blistering 4-under-par 32 in his opening round.

“I would say it's Reilly’s short game,” Galen Fowles said on his brother’s biggest strength. “I don't know if that's what he believes it is right now, but it's been the most solid piece over the years.”

“He's really good at consistency, hitting greens well and he’s a pretty solid putter, too,” Reilly said on his brother’s game.

Whether it’s Reilly’s short game or Galen’s all-round play, the two make a formidable pair for the Blue Devils. While they say that they’re not as competitive as some other siblings might be, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t fierce competitors when they tee off against an opponent. They may look calm on the surface, but their talent shines on the golf course. 

“They play extremely well together. They're extremely focused and positive – when one has an off day, the other is there to pick them up,” Chapdelaine said. “I think it's a really healthy competitive relationship that the two of them have, and it's fun to watch. They're students of the game, they add so much to the team that I couldn't even add as a coach because all the other players really look up to these guys.”

The Devils lost a couple strong seniors in Evan Yurko and Camille Richmond. Luckily for Chapdelaine, he thinks this team has a number of players who are both willing and able to take their game to the next level to fill those shoes.

“I think we're in a better position this year than we were last year, depth-wise,” Chapdelaine said. “Because there's some hungry players that saw some openings were going to come about.”

Golfers like Ben O’Connor, Jack Mattison-Gulotta and Calvin Paddock are just a few of the players that the Blue Devils will look to this season. If they can keep up their strong play all season, look for Northampton to be very much in the mix to pull off a repeat at the Western Mass. tourney.

Golfer of the year back for the ’Canes

Across the river, Amherst’s Piet Hartman is looking for a repeat of his own. The junior was the 2021 Gazette Boys Golfer of the Year, and after a productive summer, Hartman has come back stronger than ever. He’s got big plans this season, eyeing up both the Western Mass. and state tournaments. If he plays at the level he’s capable of, he’ll be a major contender come postseason time. 

“He has a phenomenal short game... I would put Piet’s short game up with anyone I know. And by that I mean, I'm including a couple people that are now playing on the [PGA] Champions Tour. His short game is that good,” Amherst head coach Carl Vigeland said. “Just phenomenal hands. And then he's been growing every year.”

With his short game already at an elite level, Hartman said he’s been focusing on other aspects of his game over the summer.

“Definitely something I've been working on with one of my coaches, Chris Tallman at The Orchards, is just distance control with wedges. I feel like I've been pretty accurate off the tee recently and over the course of me playing golf, but inside of 150 [yards] I haven't been as accurate as I would have liked to,” Hartman said. “So that and putting, I would say, are my main focuses right now.”

Amherst lost a couple of key golfers in Chase Smith and Skylar Ferro from a year ago. Smith transferred to Smith Vocational, which doesn’t have a golf team, and Ferro is busy with club lacrosse during the golf season. While losing some of that depth isn’t easy, Vigeland said he expects a healthy competition from other players to step up and fill those spots.

“It's impacted (our lineup) quite a bit,” Vigeland said on the roster changes. “Right now one of the seniors, Nate Hawkins, and then a ninth grader, Ben Scott, will play third. But that may flip, and they know it. The two of them were playing three and four, or four and five, last year, They’d flip back and forth. So it's a nice competition.”

South Hadley’s hot streak

Most teams are always looking ahead to the next match, but this year’s South Hadley team is hoping that last year’s finish will carry over.

While the Tigers struggled with consistency a year ago, they got hot toward the end of the year, winning four of their final five matches. Head coach Jason Bourque is confident that that momentum will carry over in this year.

“We had a strong finish last year and I think that got a lot of returning guys excited for the season. So they've really come into the season ready to work and continue to get better,” Bourque said. “I don't think they were satisfied with that overall season, but they were able to kind of feed off that success we had toward the end of the year.”

South Hadley had a difficult first match, facing off against defending Western Mass. champion Northampton on Tuesday. But early on, they’ve had some strong individual performances – Ryan McGregor shot a 38, and teammate Bennett Allen finished with a 43. 

Top performers to watch

Though it’s still early in the year, here’s a few other golfers from around the Pioneer Valley to keep an eye on...

Though he lost his first match to Palmer’s Ethan Beauchemin (33), Hampshire’s Levi Zielinski broke 40 in his opening round of golf this year, shooting a 39 in the Raiders’ 17-7 victory. No. 2 Brayden Fennessy (44) also had a strong first outing for Hampshire. 

Belchertown is another team that had a couple of strong performances early on. In their first match against Chicopee Comp, five Orioles shot a 45 or better. Brady Perkins shot a 2-over-par 38 and Henry Poissant shot a 40. Cal Orzech (42), Ben Anderson (43) and Riley Breen (44) should also be strong players for the Orioles throughout the year. 

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