WATERTOWN — Jim DiNello had a big smile on his face after walking off Crestbrook Park’s 18th green on Monday.
The Southington golf coach was full of pride with the way his team stood toe-to-toe with the best teams in the state guided by the leadership of senior captains Eric Flood and David Valentukonis. Playing in the last group of the CIAC Division I state championship tournament, the Blue Knights tied for fourth.
“We did tremendous,” DiNello said. “When you tie for fourth with the caliber that’s here and you look at the whole body of work from the whole season, it’s great. The fact of the matter is the guys on the team represented the school very well. Everything was earned by hard work. I couldn’t ask any more of these guys.”
For a second straight year, sophomore Andrew Szandrocha was the low man for Southington. He shot a 4-over-par 75 in Monday’s wet conditions, which placed him 10th overall and earned him All-State honors.
“It’s a big honor,” Szandrocha said. “I’ve worked hard all year for this, so it’s a good thing to achieve. I had a solid round and hit the ball really well.”
Szandrocha had two birdies, 10 pars and six bogeys on his round.
“It was a solid score in these conditions,” Szandrocha said. “I hit the ball well today. My putting wasn’t great.”
After Szandrocha, Eric Flood (79), David Valentukonis (81) and sophomore Jacob D’Alessandro (81) scored for Southington. Sophomore Ryan Burrill shot a 86, but his score was not used.
“Andrew plays in a lot of high-pressured events and I think that really helps him,” DiNello said. “He’s cut out for tournament play. They were all ready to play, but for some reason Andrew really thrives in this type of environment.”
Manchester’s Blake Kelley was the D-1 medalist with a 1-under-par 70.
The Blue Knights entered the match as the No. 2 seed behind Greenwich. Ridgefield was the No. 3 seed and No. 4 was Glastonbury.
But the Knights knew all too well that the Tomahawks are for real. In the CCC Tournament last week at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain, Glastonbury shot a 295. Southington finished second with a respectable 312.
On Monday, the Tomahawks earned some more hardware with a first-place finish, shooting a 303. They were followed by Greenwich (307), Ridgefield (310). Southington and Newtown shot 316 in tying for fourth.
“These kids will get on the bus and be happy when they get home because they exhausted every bit of energy they could to be a champion and, today, they got beat by a great Glastonbury team,” DiNello said. “They did everything in their power. They just fell short.”
Cheshire entered the tournament as the No. 10 seed. The Rams finished with a team score of 326, which tied them for 12th place. Chris Simione carded a 78 for Cheshire, followed by Tom Arisco (80), Jacob Ecke (82) and Ben Kaplan (86).
“This was a challenging course,” Cheshire coach Dan Lee said. “This was a year where we didn’t have the same guy finish first every time. All four of our guys are capable of shooting a low score. The seniors have had a great career. They represented the school very well.”
Division III: East Catholic won the team title and Preston Shortell of Holy Cross captured the individual crown at Tallwood Country Club in Hebron.
Shortell cared an even-par 72 to win by two strokes over Tolland’s Sean Benjamin.
Tolland was also runner-up in the team category, falling nine strokes behind East Catholic (311).
Sheehan finished 12 at 353. Low man was freshman Eli Dyer (87). The Titans also got scoring from Willie Stone (88), Matt Wilson (88) and Cody Paolella (90).