Fairfield Prep returns the defending CIAC Division I state champion in sophomore Andrew Sciarretta. He's not the only talented or experienced golfer returning to the four high school teams in town. Overall, prospects for the Jesuits, Falcons, Lancers and Mustangs appear promising because most of last year's golfers who were fairly successful will be back this spring.
The Jesuits might have graduated five golfers, three of whom were starters, but 2014 will be far from a rebuilding year. Instead, Prep's depth should allow it to have another successful season.
The Jesuits, who went 10-7 during last year's regular season before finishing fourth at the CIAC Division I Championship, will be led by Andrew Sciarretta. He established himself as one of the state's best golfers last season by winning the Division I tournament as a freshman. Senior James Nemia will be counted on heavily as well in his third consecutive season as a varsity golfer.
Prep's remaining golfers have little significant varsity experience, but most were at least key members of last season's JV squad. Head coach Bob Bernier has been impressed with his roster's collective talent, and he believes the Jesuits' depth will be a valuable resource in a loaded SCC.
"I'm very pleased with the talent and depth that we have," Bernier said. "That depth should help us be successful. We just need to focus on playing together and growing throughout the season both individually and collectively."
The Jesuits begin the season Thursday against Amity at 3 p.m. at the Country Club of Woodbridge.
The Falcons could take a big step forward after returning the core of last season's squad. Ludlowe expects strong seasons by its top golfers, but will need its younger ones to improve steadily for it to be a leading contender in the FCIAC.
Tom Kelley, Jack Armstrong and Matt Chan will start in the top three positions this season. Kelley, a junior, was named All-FCIAC last season after recording an overall scoring average of 2.3. Armstrong, a senior, has committed to Coastal Carolina's PGA golf management program, while senior Chan has committed to play for NYU. The trio will serve as the team's captains.
Dane Vanderblue (sophomore), Brenden Mockler (junior), Dan Henry (junior), and Steve McArdle (senior) will start in positions three through seven. Vanderblue played in several matches as a freshman. Each of the team's first-year starters received significant playing time last season.
First-year head coach Daniel Kleps is confident the Falcons will win more close matches because of their talent and depth. They lost seven matches by 10 strokes or fewer last season, resulting in an 8-10 record.
Ludlowe's young golfers possess significant talent, but still must demonstrate they can provide reliable support to their proven teammates. If they reward Kleps's belief in them, the Falcons should improve significantly.
"I strongly anticipate that we'll have a successful season," Kleps said. "If our younger guys play well, we should pick up a few more wins."
The season opens Thursday against Trumbull at 3:15 p.m. at Tashua Knolls Golf Course.
The Lancers hope to have a winning record after returning all but one starter from a team that went 8-8 a year ago.
Notre Dame's top four starters -- Dan Walsh, Emmett Whealan, Mitch Hall and A.J. Lucatino -- are all seniors. Head coach Pete Cofrancesco said the Lancers' experience will be a huge advantage in SWC play. Pomperaug won a state championship (Div. I) last season for the conference, while Weston finished as a runner-up (Div. III), and both teams are again favored to set the pace in the SWC.
Notre Dame's ultimate goal is to finish with a winning record. To do so, its golfers must be more consistent and show steady growth throughout the season, Cofrancesco said.
The Lancers open 2014 Wednesday at 3 p.m. against New Fairfield in a non-conference match at Fairchild Wheeler Golf Course.
The Mustangs went 9-10 overall last year and 7-9 to place fifth of seven teams in the FCIAC East. Warde finished 18th of 20 teams in the Division I championship tournament. They have lost only one starter through graduation.
Junior Tyler Mazut tied for 64th in the Div. I tournament last June. Sophomore Hunter Rempe tied for 86th and junior Andrew Levy placed in a tie for 100th in the state tournament.
"We should be very competitive and have a chance to win the FCIAC and be state champions," said coach Bob Bigonette. "We have a real good chance to be very good this year. If the boys work hard and compete, we will have success." Bigonette cites the Mustangs' experience and depth as team strengths.
Bigonette said he expects Darien, New Canaan and defending conference champion Greenwich to be the top teams in the FCIAC this spring.
The season begins April 21 at Oak Hills Golf Club against Norwalk, starting at 3:15 p.m.
Danny Atkinson is a freelance reporter