NEW GARDEN >> Having to replace a star-studded senior class can be quite a challenge for just about any golf team, but not West Chester Rustin.
Head coach Joe Paris lost five seniors from last season’s division champs, but his Golden Knights edged upstart Kennett 193-196 on Wednesday at Hartefeld National to capture the Ches-Mont American once again. It was Rustin’s second victory over the Blue Demons this season, and both came by the identical margin of three strokes.
“Kennett and Unionville are both terrific teams, so for us to go 3-1 against them this season is very impressive,” said sophomore Sam Feeney, who garnered medalist honors with an even-par 36.
“We lost five really good seniors from last year’s team, so we have come a long way,” added junior Sophia DeSantis, who shot a 38.
Now 8-1 in the league, the Knights head into next Tuesday’s Ches-Mont Championship at Applecross Country Club as one of the teams to beat.
“If we can go out and play the way we’ve been playing all season long, our opponents will have to play extremely well to beat us,” Paris said.
Kennett falls to 7-2 (12-3 overall) but can still capture sole possession of second place in the division with a win Thursday against Unionville (7-2). The Demons edged the Longhorns in an earlier meeting.
“We tested Unionville and are going toe-to-toe with Rustin,” said Kennett head coach Kevin Murphy. “Playing these tight matches against excellent programs bodes well for our future. It was neat to see how much they wanted it for each other.”
On Wednesday the Knights won it by outplaying the Demons on the finishing holes. And a prime example came from Feeney and DeSantis, who went a combined 4-under-par over the final three holes. Feeney was 2-over through six holes, but finished birdie, birdie, par.
“Sam and I had very similar rounds,” DeSantis acknowledged. “We both were a little frustrated in the beginning, but toward the end of the round, smiles started coming.”
Feeney executed a terrific fairway bunker shot at No. 7 and made a 10-foot birdie putt. And then nearly knocked in a 40-foot eagle putt at the par-5 8th. DeSantis converted a 30-footer at the 8th and then put her tee shot on the par-3 9th to within a foot.
“The short game was key today for our team,” she said.
“We are one of those teams that has a bunch of kids who put in the work. Some team have one really solid player, but we have a lot of solid players.”
Evan Rydel (39), Colin Keiser (40) and Anesti Kalderemtzis (40) all provided scores that helped Rustin win it.
“We know we are going to get good scores from Sam and Sophia. But everybody else really contributed,” said Paris, who has now guided the Knights to four C-M American crowns.
“It’s good that our (division) is so competitive. And it’s nice to see Kennett really compete. They challenged us right down to the end. They have been the most competitive team we’ve played all year.”
Senior Drew Zieg and junior Kasim Narinesingh-Smith paced the Demons with a 1-over 37s. Narinesingh-Smith’s round came after he missed the previous week with COVID-19.
“Kasim tested negative (Wednesday) morning and we were grateful he came back and put up a very nice score under the circumstances,” Murphy said.
“Our best team score (at Hartefeld) was a 194 and we needed that today. We had some stumbles down the stretch that hurt us.
“We knew it would be close, and it was there if not for some late struggles. We were going to have to play our A game to beat (Rustin), and we were close.”
Kennett still has a team goal in its sight, but will have to play elite golf on Thursday and at the Ches-Mont Championship next week to finish among the league’s top three teams and earn a spot in districts.
“If we beat Unionville (Thursday), then our score at (the Ches-Mont Championship) would be compared to the (top Ches-Mont National) teams,” Murphy explained. “It is tough, but it is still possible. Maybe we catch lightning in a bottle, but there is a path.”
West Chester Rustin 193, Kennett 196
Par 36 at Hartefeld National Golf Club
W.C. Rustin: Feeney 36; DeSantis 38; Rydel 39; Keiser 40, Kalderemtzis 40.
Kennett: Zieg 37; Narinesingh-Smith 37; Gaughan 40; Vitale 40, Murphy 42.