By Jimmy Allinder
Since the turn of the century, the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) boys golf team championship has been won by East Brunswick High School and Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen, except for 2003 when South Brunswick High School captured the title.
There’s a chance, albeit a slight one, a different team wins the crown this season. Sayreville War Memorial High School is 15-0 and in first place in the GMC White Division, followed by Monroe Township High School (13-1), which is a match behind of the Bombers. Both could be contenders when the tournament is held May 19 at Forsgate Country Club.
Monroe has already qualified for the NJSIAA Central and South, Group IV sectional May 16 at Linwood Country Club. The first- and second-place teams advance to the state championships at Hopewell Valley Golf Club May 23.
Before the season-ending tournaments, however, the Falcons hoped to take care of other business, like extending their four-year streak of winning White Division championships. That could only happen if Monroe avenged an earlier loss to Sayreville when the teams met again May 3, weather-permitting.
A major reason the Falcons are in the mix for the GMC Tournament title is the play of their top golfer, junior Rob Cocorikis, a serious challenger to the individual crown.
“Rob is our captain, and he learned a lot from his brother, (Matt),” Monroe coach Dennis Kelliher said. “If his high round of the spring was removed, Rob’s average would be 3.6 strokes over par (for nine holes).”
Matt Cocorikis finished in second place at the GMCs and has moved on to Eastern University, where he is among the Eagles’ top golfers.
The younger Cocorikis is a tireless worker and his improvement since last year has been evident with his excellent shot-making. Kelliher expects Rob Cocorikis’ progress to continue with another year of varsity golf under his belt.
That is not to underestimate the importance of the rest of the team to Monroe’s success. Senior Rishub Handa, sophomore Christian Guido and freshman Adithya Palekar average 8 strokes over par, and sophomores Waheed Zafar and Namin Shah average 9 strokes over par.
If any combination of five golfers Kelliher chooses to compete in the GMC Tournament finishes below or at their average, the Falcons should finish among the top teams.
Spotswood High School also hopes to qualify for the Central and South, Group II sectionals, which will be staged at Running Deer Golf Course May 16. Eligible teams are required to win a minimum of 60 percent of their matches by the May 6 cutoff date. The Chargers solidified their chances of making the states by defeating Colonia High School May 2 to extend their record to 8-5 and have only a match against North Brunswick Township High School May 5 remaining before the cutoff date.
“This season, we’re competing at a higher level than in previous years,” second-year coach Chris Fiebel said. “We’re not only playing better as a team, but we’re more competitive with each other and that’s what has enabled us to improve.”
The challenge for Group II Spotswood has been competing against Group III and IV opponents as members of the White Division. However, as the Chargers reap the benefits from the growing popularity of golf at the high school, they will continue to become more competitive.
“We had 13 boys and two girls join the program this spring, which is twice as many as last year,” Fiebel said.
The top player, Evan Esposito, is also one of the best in the conference. The senior is averaging three strokes over par and has qualified for the state individual tournament. Esposito is headed to Methodist University next year to pursue a Professional Golfers’ Association management degree.
Fiebel said that six other golfers have battled for the top six spots on the team. They are juniors Joe Angeloni, Kevin Ehresman, Blake Janeczek and Douglas Gumprecht and sophomores Trevor Jozefowicz and Justin Rochford.
“Justin is the most improved player from last year,” Fiebel said. “Trevor has taken on a leading role, and Doug is new to the program whose play has provided more competition for the rest of the team. A good indication we’re headed in the right direction is the [one-stroke] tiebreaker loss to Sayreville last week.”