The last full week of April was another shining example of the talent possessed by the Shawnee boys golf team.
The Renegades opened the week by defending their Burlington County Open title at Little Mill Country Club in Evesham Township on Monday. After that, they unofficially won the Olympic Conference Championship at Medford Lake Country Club before defeating Eastern, Seneca and Lenape in matches at the end of the week. That brings the team’s record to 10-0 so far, on top of strong tournament performances this season.
Senior Jack Ross finished as the individual champion in both the county and Olympic contests, shooting a 77 and a 74, respectively, to clinch the top spot in each tournament.
Joe Kessler, in his sixth year as head coach of the program, said the team had high expectations for its 2021-’22 season after a 16-1 season last year that resulted in a state championship appearance.
“Our goal coming in this season was to win our conference, which we’ve done a good job of playing against so far,” Kessler said, “and then use those tournaments throughout the season to prove that you’re as good as your record says you are.
“So far, things have been really going our way and I’m really proud of the way our guys are playing.”
At the recent Burlington County Open – where Shawnee won the 16th county crown in program history – the Renegades shot a team score of 338 to beat second-place Moorestown. Rounding out the top five for Shawnee were senior Matt Fish (84, tied for sixth), junior Nick Ryan (86, tied for 11th), senior Andrew Parris (91, tied for 23rd) and senior Matthew Adler (96, tied for 36th).
Parris won the individual title at the tournament last season, which made for a Shawnee repeat in the category this year. While Ross had a strong season last year, according to his coach, his season so far has been even better.
“A big reason why we’ve done as well as we have in both tournaments that we’ve played in so far is because of Jack,” Kessler said. “He’s been the main reason; he’s a pretty special golfer here so far. He’s the guy that everyone on the team is trying to catch.
“Last year as a junior, he was very good, but he managed to improve so much from last season, which I wasn’t sure if it was even possible, but apparently it was and he has,” the coach added.
The Renegades boast a very strong team with their top five golfers. Ross, Fish and Parris in particular are in constant competition with each other every day on and off the course, making for a good team atmosphere for the three seniors’ final year at Shawnee.
“Between those three, they’re very good friends off the course and are always battling not just other teams but each other on the course to be the better golfer on that given day,” Kessler said. “[Ross] is probably playing like the best player in South Jersey right now … so it’s good, friendly competition between them that keeps this going.”