Needham’s Jake Shuman top player in Division 1 boys’ golf state championship

NORTON — With graying mustaches and baggy windbreakers, befuddled golf coaches huddled upstairs in the warmth of Norton Country Club, shaking their heads at some of the unusually poor scores at Monday’s Division 1 state final.

Faces still flush from the cold, with leaves and branches clinging to some of their shoes, the players joined them, waiting for an old projector to display a score that might finally impress. Suddenly, a voice shouted from within the group: “Oh, wow. We have a 72.”

While nine players shot 75 or better in last year’s event at Glen Ellen Country Club, only two managed it this year. With 66 of Massachusetts’ best golfers competing, the average score on Norton’s par-71 course was 14-over 85.

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Just one player came close to par: Needham’s Jake Shuman. He finished with a 1-over 72.

“I’ve prepared enough,” said Shuman, his shirt still neatly tucked in, his visor straight and calm atop his head.

“And,” Shuman continued, “I’ve played enough golf in New England to know when it’s this cold, the ball doesn’t go as far and it’s hard to compress.”

Asked the best part of Shuman’s game before Monday’s round, Needham coach Adam Cole said, “It’s all strong.”

Shuman began with a double bogey on the par-3 third hole. An established player on the American Junior Golf Association circuit, and a favorite on Monday, Shuman quickly fought his way back, using just 29 putts on the day and draining a pair of 10-footers on his last two holes.

Finishing in second place, BC High’s Matt Robinson played so well his coach, Chris Hayes, rushed through the clubhouse to congratulate the junior on his 75, a score three strokes better than his season average.

“Robinson is such a steady player,” said Hayes, “but he doesn’t make birdies like Jake Shuman.”

St. John’s of Shrewsbury needed a 76 from junior Eddy Black and a 78 from senior Nick DiReda to push the Pioneers into a tie with BC High for the team title. Forced to use the score from its fifth golfer, according to tiebreaking rules, St. John’s took the first-place trophy thanks to 82s from Dan Lynch and Joe Plante.

“Today, that’s not a bad score,” said coach Bill Prendiville. “I think what helped us is this is one of the deepest teams we’ve ever had.”

St. John’s has won seven state titles under Prendiville, including two in a row and five of the last eight.

“We’re all good players,” said DiReda. “We just had to play our own game. We knew we could all score better than everyone else. We’ve all proven it.”