Like every other golfer in Morris County, Evan Quinn has been frustrated by the wicked winter weather that has strangled the area.
“It’s been tough,” the talented Morristown junior said. “It was a strange winter. It was kind to us early on, so we were able to get out and play for a while. Then, bang, the snow and cold came and it was hard to find even an open outdoor range to get a few swings in.”
Then Quinn stumbled across one of the places he learned how to play golf when he was still a toddler, doing the old pitch-and-putt routine at Anchor Golf on Route 10 in East Hanover.
“There’s a good simulator there,” said Quinn, who was the 2014 All Daily Record Golfer of the Year after his sophomore season, winning the Morris County title, the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference crown and earned the medal at the NJSIAA North 1 Group III sectional at Darlington Golf Course in Mahwah with a blistering round of 66, setting a new state record.
“I was able to get my swings in,” said Quinn. “I was going at least twice a week with my Dad. I was able to keep my swing in good shape. … Coming out of the winter hibernation, it’s the best my swing has ever looked.”
Quinn helped Morristown win the overall NJSIAA Group III championship at the Tournament of Champions, an event that he admits to having played poorly, shooting an uncharacteristic 84, the only blemish on what was a dream campaign.
Quinn knows that the bullseye is squarely on his back and that he’s expected to play like the returning Golfer of the Year.
“I know I’ve done it before, so I can do it again,” said Quinn, who is a strong advocate of self-help golf books and tapes. “It makes it easier mentally to do it a second time. But all the guys who were right there last year are back as well. There might be a little target on my back, but that just makes me work harder. … My mindset is the same as it was last year. I just have to do my job and try to play the best that I can play. I can control me and only me. If I’m able to put up a low score, that’s great. If it’s the lowest score, that’s even better. But I have to play within myself and control only what I can control.”
Quinn is not just a golfer, but a fine cross country runner for the Colonials in the fall and a distance runner during indoor track season. Quinn was slowed during last cross country season when he suffered a hernia that required surgery, but he’s 100 percent healthy now.
“The doctors did such a great job that you wouldn’t even know,” Quinn said. “Running track couldn’t hurt me this season, especially with leg strength and focus. It all plays a huge part. Mr. (Paul) Buccino (the Morristown track coach) is a great guy and he said that the strength I gained from cross country controls the fight in me. I need to stay focused at all times. That’s what wins over.”
Quinn will begin to take recruiting trips for college this spring.
“That’s a little bit of added weight on my shoulders this season,” Quinn said. “I’ve been talking to colleges, but nothing serious yet. That’s why this is my biggest year so far. I’ve spoken to others who told me that colleges get a good idea of what you can do as a junior. So I just have to play within myself and stay in control, both on the course and staying forward.”
One of Quinn’s biggest competitors will be Delbarton senior Will Voetsch, who was right there in both the county and NJAC tournaments (losing there to Quinn in a one-hole playoff) and firing a 74 at the Tournament of Champions to finish sixth overall. Voetsch also shot a 71 at the Non-Public North A sectionals to finish second.
Voetsch, a four-year starter for the Green Wave, signed a National Letter of Intent to play at Rice University in the fall.
“Will has been playing all year and hasn’t skipped a beat,” Delbarton head coach Sean Flanagan said. “He’s already in mid-season form. I’m expecting a huge year from Will.”
The Green Wave, which has won seven of the last eight Morris County team titles, is expected to be among the top local squads again. But this year is a little different, because other than Voetsch, the Green Wave does not have a bunch of returning veterans. Junior Griffin Carroll was the team’s No. 5 golfer last season.
“He’s playing good golf,” said Flanagan, who has an advantage over most in the county, after taking his team to Sage Valley and Secession Golf Clubs in Buford, S.C., for spring break. “Griffin is pretty darn consistent and is a good player. We went down there and had five days with multiple rounds. We got a ton of golf in, so we’ve come back here in good shape.”
Delbarton juniors Joe Okunak and Cole Tavani got in a few varsity matches last spring. The Green Wave also welcomes two newcomers with good family lineage. Sophomore Bob Mulcahy is the grandson of former Rutgers athletic director and NJSEA chief Robert Mulcahy. Sophomore Ryan Criqui is the grandson of Don, the respected national sportscaster.
Freshmen Ryan Stefanic, Jack Semeth and Andrew Perry will all challenge for playing time whenever the season begins. It’s scheduled to begin Wednesday, but some of the Morris County courses have announced that they will not open until April 8 at the earliest.
“The courses are all a sopping mess,” Flanagan said. “The last snow killed us. But what can you do? We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.”
When the season does begin, then expect Quinn to be at the top of every leader board and the Green Wave contending for every team title. Other teams to watch include Group III team title winner Morristown, reigning Group I champion Pequannock, as well as Chatham, Jefferson, Roxbury and West Morris.
“I just think we pick up and keep going,” Flanagan said. “Last preseason, no one thought we would be in the throes of winning the Tournament of Champions and without a two-stroke penalty, we would have taken the title. We realize that we’re young, but we have a chance when you have a horse up front like Will. We will go as far as he goes. Our young guys are being tossed into the fire.”
Everyone will have to get ready for the first real test, which will be the Morris County Championships at Flanders Valley on April 23.
“I think most of us are now starting to get to hit the ball outdoors at ranges,” Quinn said. “I hope we can get out on the course soon. The goal is to open the second week of April, but will it? That’s a good question.”
Golfers to Watch
Evan Quinn, Morristown, junior
The 2014 All Daily Record Golfer of the Year, Quinn dominated the local tournaments, winning the Morris County Tournament with a score of 72, won the Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference title in a one-hole playoff and set a new NJSIAA sectional record by firing a blistering 66 at Darlington to capture the North 2 Group III medal.
Will Voetsch, Delbarton, senior
Already signed with Rice University, Voetsch is a leader on Morris County’s top team. Last year, Voetsch was second to Quinn at the NJAC championships, was sixth overall at the Tournament of Champions after finishing second at the Non-Public A sectional the week before and finished in the top 10 at the Morris County Tournament.
Tommy Hayes, West Morris, senior
One of the most consistent golfers around, Hayes was third at the Morris County Tournament with a solid 78 and fifth at the NJAC championship. One of the better ball strikers around, Hayes qualified for the Tournament of Champions by shooting a 76 and shot an 83 at the TOC.
Matt Gentile, Chatham, junior
Gentile came out of nowhere last spring to earn All Daily Record First Team accolades. Gentile fired a 76 to help the Cougars win North 2 Group II over Ramsey. Gentile also shot a 77 to finish third at the NJAC championship and fired an 80 at the Tournament of Champions.
Brett, Griffin and Travis Lubba, Pequannock, senior triplets
If you take one Lubba, you have to consider all three. Brett was the best of the trio as the Golden Panthers finished the season as the top Group I team in New Jersey last spring, but brothers Griffin and Travis almost interchange and are right there among the best. The three-headed Lubba monster gives the Golden Panthers a strong reason to contend again this year.
Nick Axelson, Roxbury, senior
The talented ball striker came on strong at the close of the 2014 season, finishing fifth at the NJAC championships. If he continues that upward climb, Axelson could emerge with the elite golfers in the area this spring.
Mitchell Korzen, Montville, senior
Korzen was one of the most consistent swingers last spring, right in the mix of every tournament and match he played in, eventually taking sixth at the NJAC championships to close out the season.
Alex Bollington, Madison, senior
Bollington has been one of the most improved golfers over the last two years and if that progression continues, he could climb into the ranks of the top golfers in Morris County this season. Bollington will help to lead the Dodgers into competition for a North 2 Group II team title next month.
Carley Hopton, Madison, senior
Because Madison doesn’t have a girls golf team, Hopton plays with the boys during the spring. The two-time defending Morris County girls champion, Hopaton shot a 77 to win last spring, and finished third at the NJAC girls championship.