Larry O’Neill had lofty expectations for his team when it teed off in last Monday’s Division 1 North sectional golf tournament.
One score, however, caused even the long-time St. John’s Prep coach to take a step back.
James Turner. 71.
“I was putting the scores up on the board while other coaches checked the scorecards, and when I heard his name and I heard 71, I was pleasantly surprised,” O’Neill said. “I looked at him and just saw him smile.”
It was a banner moment for the 14-year-old Gloucester native, a self-taught golf junkie who burst onto the scene as a freshman for the Eagles this season and paced their Division 1 North championship.
He’d been a solid contributor for the Eagles throughout the regular season, wrapping up the regular season as the team’s sixth-best scorer which, for a team as talented as the Eagles, is a feat itself.
But few saw Turner’s round at Haverhill’s Bradford Country Club coming. His one-over-par 71 was the low score for the Eagles and fourth-best in the tournament, pushing St. John’s Prep to a runaway victory. Turner combined with Brandon Bingel (75), Steven Dilisio (76) and Josh Wingardner (79) to produce the Eagles’ impressive 301 team score.
Central Catholic, the runner-up, fired a 312.
“He’s really been a great addition to the team both in terms of personality and his play,” O’Neill said. “He’s been a big surprise to us. I know I met him at open house last spring and he told me he was a golfer and he played at Bass Rocks, but I didn’t know how good he might be.”
It was another freshman, Swampscott’s Dilisio, that was considered the jewel of O’Neill’s incoming freshman class.