By Tim Morris
They came in together as freshmen to a golf program with little history, and they leave as champions.
Lewis Wright, Russell Herbert and Chris LaBarbara took the Freehold High School boys golf team to unprecedented heights at the Freehold Regional High School District Tournament, claiming the program’s first championship. Freehold outclassed a strong field that included the Shore Conference A North Division public school champion Howell High School with a school-record team score of 312. They easily bested Manalapan High School (325) and Howell (330) on the par-72 Gamblers Ridge Golf Course in Upper Freehold Township.
Marlboro High School was fourth (331), Colts Neck High School finished fifth (341) and Freehold Township High School, despite having the individual winner in Bobby Weise, took sixth (347).
“The three seniors have been with us since they were freshmen,” Colonials head coach Jason Blum said. “It was nice to see them go out with a win.
“[The team] really wanted it. Every kid played well. Our score is tough to beat.”
Wright led the Colonials’ effort carding a 76. Herbert and junior Jack Long both shot 78s. The 78 was Long’s lowest round of the season. Rounding out the scoring was LaBarbara with an 80. Freehold’s fifth man, Kyle Franco, shot an 86.
The district title was the icing on the cake to a record-setting season for the Colonials. In addition to setting the team scoring record for 18 holes, they set the dual meet record for nine holes, shooting a 151. That record convinced Blum that the Colonials had a chance to win the district tournament, and they delivered.
In addition to the school records, Freehold qualified for both the Shore Conference and NJSIAA Central/South Jersey tournaments.
Wright was one of the Shore’s best players throughout the year. He tied for fifth place with Freehold Township’s Weise at the Shore Conference Tournament and was seventh at the state sectional, missing the Tournament of Champions by one place.
Both Wright and Herbert will continue playing golf in college. Wright is headed to Stockton University, while Herbert will attend the State University of New York at Delhi.
There was no surprise that defending champions Weise and Rebecca Hamilton of Howell repeated as district tournament championships. They’ve been the best all season and stayed ahead of the field once again.
Weise, a junior, had a battle on his hands, beating Howell’s Noah Sloane by just one stroke, 71-72.
Hamilton, a senior, carded a 91 to finished three stroke ahead of Marlboro’s Alisha Patel (94).
For the girls teams, Marlboro was an easy victor with a score of 420. Colts Neck took second (486) and Freehold was third (522).
Individually, Manalapan’s Dan Natoli, Wright and Howell’s Mike Stefanelli tied for third behind Weise and Sloane, shooting rounds of 76.
Manalapan’s Dan Gowl (77) was sixth, and Marlboro’s Rohan Parikhj tied with LaBarbara for ninth.
Victoria Parsons (103), Aditi Balachandran (109) and Casey Yap (114) were the scorers behind Patel for the champion Marlboro girls.
Weise, Sloane and Wright have more golf to play in the Shore Conference Challenge Cup representing Monmouth County next month.
Howell had another outstanding season for coach Tim Hogan. The Rebels were 16-2 in dual meets and held onto their public school A North title, losing only to non-public Christian Brothers Academy. They were the top district team at the county (sixth), conference (10th) and state sectional (14th) tournaments.