The staggering numbers reveal the story of just how big of a day it was for Salesianum’s golf team on a cold and blustery Monday afternoon.
Caesar Rodney, the two-time reigning state team champions, had won 31 consecutive golf meets since tying St. Mark’s on May 17, 2010. The Riders hadn’t lost a meet since falling to Sussex Tech on May 7, 2009.
And when it comes to playing on its home course at Wild Quail Golf & Country Club, even Riders head coach John Newman couldn’t quite recall the last time his team lost there. But Salesianum, ranked second by The News Journal, stopped top-ranked CR’s streak cold.
Sophomore Ryan Rucinski earned medalist honors by firing an even-par 36 on the back nine in conditions more suited for a fall football game than golf to spark Sallies to a 158-161 triumph over Caesar Rodney in the nonconference matchup.
“The last couple of years we’ve had trouble [beating CR], so this year it’s really exciting,” Rucinski said. “We lost some players last year so we thought it was going to be even harder this year. We’re just all playing real well right now.”
Junior Chris Burns (40), senior Sean Carroll and sophomore Liam Murphy (41 each) combined with Rucinski for the four lowest scores for Salesianum (5-0 overall).
“They’re an excellent team,” Salesianum head coach William Carello said, of CR. “It was tough for everybody with the wind and the cold. Ryan [Rucinski] is an outstanding player, there’s no question about it. To shoot that score under these conditions is just unbelievable, quite frankly.”
Sophomore Matt Rosal shot the low score of 38 for Caesar Rodney (7-1). Senior Joe Visalli, who carded the low score in last year’s state tournament, came in at 39, junior Lott Phinnessee finished at 41 and senior Samantha Leite and junior Jerome Mangubat had matching scores of 43 for the Riders.
“We learned a lot from this match,” Visalli said. “Obviously, Sallies is a great team and we’re always thrilled to play them whenever we get the chance.
“It was a little rough [weather conditions], but we’ve been playing in wind throughout the season. We hope that it doesn’t affect us, but obviously that played a part. Losing drives the whole team. We’ll learn from it.”
Rucinski learned a valuable lesson at his first hole – No. 13 – that he would have to make a quick mental adjustment in order to put up a good score.
“On the first hole I realized how bad the wind really was, and on the first couple of holes I didn’t get off to a good start,” Rucinski said. “I was like 2-over for the first four holes. I just kind of had to settle down and restart from there. I got a birdie, and then I just kept making putts.”
While Salesianum managed to come out on top Monday, Carello figures his team will have another battle with the Riders at the DIAA Golf State Tournament on May 28-29. The two teams have combined to capture six of the past eight state golf titles.
“You’ve got to give Caesar Rodney a lot of credit; they are a very, very good team and our guys hung in there,” Carello said. “We think we can play better and I think we’re going to do some damage this year, let’s put it that way.”
They certainly managed to do some damage to the Riders’ long winning streak on Monday.