MOUNT OLIVE – On Wednesday, as fate would later have it, Roxbury senior Nick Axelson and Morristown junior Evan Quinn were paired together as they played in the prestigious High Bridge Golf Tournament, a tournament where Quinn played well, shooting a 70. As for Axelson…
“I shot an 83 at High Bridge,” Axelson said. “I had a lot of fun playing with Evan, but everything I tried just wasn’t working. It was not my day. My game wasn’t there.”
Thursday morning, Axelson teed off with approximately 140 other Morris County high school golfers to compete for the Morris County Tournament Championship, a title that Quinn won in impressive fashion a year ago.
“I wanted to come back today and play a little better round,” Axelson said. “I really thought that if I did, I could be in contention. However, with the conditions, I really didn’t know what to expect.”
The conditions at Flanders Valley Golf Course were downright laughable. At one point after the third hole, there was actually a break in the action for the hail, snow and sleet that began to rapidly fall. Not to mention, there were 36-degree temperatures and 40 mile-per-hour winds. These were not exactly prime conditions for a county golf championship.
However, Axelson kept his composure.
“After the first three holes, with all the stuff going on, and I had three pars,” Axelson said. “I was pretty happy with that. I thought then that I had a chance if I played it close to the vest. I played it safe because of the conditions. I kept the woods in the bag and just spent more time concentrating.”
That approach worked wonderfully for Axelson. Just a day after playing his round with Quinn, Axelson fired a 75, one shot better than the defending champion, to earn the Morris County individual title, a first-ever for a Roxbury golfer.
“I’m more speechless now than anything,” Axelson said after learning he had defeated Quinn by a single stroke. “Evan is such a great golfer. Going into it, I didn’t think I had a shot. This is something I’ve wanted to do since my freshman year. I just wanted to put myself in a position to play well. I never thought I could win.”
As it turned out, Axelson won his county title on his final hole of the day, draining a 20-foot putt for birdie that eventually gave him the one stroke he needed for the win.
“I’m very stoked,” Axelson said. “I’m very happy. I think it was more about mental concentration today because of the conditions. I just took my time with my shots and played within myself.”
Quinn, who also finished second in 2013, falling in a playoff by one stroke to champion Kevin Godart of Delbarton, wasn’t upset with the way he played.
“I’m not down about the way I played,” Quinn said. “If it was good conditions, perhaps I might be. But this was laughable with the snow and the hail. Everyone had to play in the same conditions, but it was tough because you have to concentrate on every single shot.”
Quinn knew he lost the tournament in the final holes.
“I had two three-putts back-to-back,” Quinn said. “I was putting for birdie and ended up three-putting. The good birdie chance turned to bogey. I’m kicking myself for that.”
Delbarton senior Will Voetsch finished third with a solid round of 76, falling to Quinn in a match of cards. Voetsch was second to Quinn last year.
But Voetsch’s performance helped to carry Delbarton to its fourth consecutive team title. Even though Voetsch is the lone returning player from last year’s county champ, the Green Wave mustered enough to defeat runner-up West Morris by nine strokes.
“I knew the guys were ready to go, but then they come out here and the conditions were so difficult,” Delbarton coach Sean Flanagan said. “It was rough, but they played well in the conditions. I thought if we played well, we could be in the mix. Any time you play in an event like this and win, it’s a good thing.”
Junior Griffin Carroll, who was not on the team that won the county title last year, shot a 78 to aid in the winning team cause, finishing sixth overall. Bob Mulcahy, the grandson of the former Rutgers athletic director and New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority chief, chipped in with a solid round of 84.
Blake DiPaola of West Morris, who returned to school after spending a year at a Florida golf academy, was fourth overall with a score of 77. John Shay of Morristown-Beard, who is headed to the University of Mississippi to play golf in the fall, was fifth with a score of 78. Travis Lubba of Pequannock, one of the three Lubba triplets on the Golden Panthers’ roster, was seventh with his score of 79.
But the day belonged to the unexpected champion.
“I can now relax and not worry about missing three-foot putts,” Axelson said. “I can go out with more confidence and poise.”
Team Scores: Delbarton 323, West Morris 332, Mendham 333, Morristown 344, Pequannock 345, Randolph 349, Morristown-Beard 353, Roxbury 357, Madison 361, Montville 363, Chatham 365, Kinnelon 375¸ Jefferson 403, Mountain Lakes 410, Parsippany and Mount Olive 413, Morris Knolls 420, Park Regional 423, Morris Hills 428, Parsippany Hills 430, Morris Tech 455, Butler 473, Morris Catholic 485.
Nick Axelson, Roxbury 38-37-75; Evan Quinn, Morristown 37-39-76; Will Voetsch, Delbarton 39-37-76; Blake DiPaola, West Morris 36-41-77; Griffin Carroll, Delbarton 40-38-78; John Shay, Morristown-Beard 39-39-78; Travis Lubba, Pequannock 40-39-79; Matt Ferriero, West Morris 40-40-80; Alex Chin, Chatham 38-43-81; Lucas Artigliere, Madison 38-43-81; Colin Peters, Mendham 39-42-81; Mitch Korzen, Montville 40-41-81; Ryle Hegarty, Mendham 40-41-81; Joe Goryeb, Mendham 40-41-81; Garrett Steinberg, Randolph 43-39-82; Robbie Campbell, Randolph 43-40-83; Brian Quilty, Roxbury 41-42-83; Tyler Jachera, Roxbury 39-45-84; Alex Bollington, Madison 40-44-84; Matt Gentile, Chatham 44-40-84; Matt Schwartzman, Montville 41-43-84; Bob Mulcahy, Delbarton 44-40-84; Luke Haralampoudis, Morristown 44-40-84; Tommy Hayes, West Morris 40-45-85; Cole Tabani, Delbarton 43-42-85; Jeff Barrechia, Jefferson 43-42-85; Brett Lubba, Pequannock 46-42-88; Griffin Lubba, Pequannock 42-46-88; Ryan Orr, Parsippany 43-45-88; Richie Newfeld, Kinnelon 43-45-88; Ryan Thomas, Mountain Lakes 44-44-88.