TOPSFIELD — Thirty-two golfers from Amesbury, Newburyport, Triton and Pentucket took the course at New Meadow Country Club in Topsfield yesterday morning with one goal in mind, to bring the most unique trophy in high school golf — “The Rat” — back home to their school.
It came down to the final hole, but in the end Amesbury edged out Triton by a single point to win the 16th annual River Rivals Tournament and claim The Rat for the fourth time in school history, denying the Vikings a three-peat in the process. The Indians finished with 207 points, Triton with 206, Pentucket placed third with 170 and Newburyport fourth with 168.
In the process, Amesbury also won all three of its non-league matches to improve to 14-0 on the year, giving the Indians a chance to wrap up a perfect regular season today with a win over Hamilton-Wenham.
“It feels great, the kids have worked hard, they were up early this morning over in Amesbury practicing, so they’ve taken it seriously all the way through,” said Amesbury coach George Dodier. “They deserve all the credit for all their hard work. It’s different kids each time, some guys are steady at the top but then other kids seem to come through, like Sam Burnham today with 28 points.”
Since the River Rivals Tournament began in 1999, the winning school has been awarded The Rat, which is a big rat trophy perched a top a small tree trunk with the names of each year’s winner engraved on the front.
Similarly, the highest scoring participant is also named “King of the Rats,” and this year that honor went to Triton’s Jon Seward, who led all scorers with 36 points on the day. Seward had seven pars, a birdie and a bogie to finish the round even par, and after the match he said it was a great honor to earn the prestigious title.
“It feels good, there’s 32 players playing in this and it’s a great feeling to be on top,” he said. “It was heartbreaking but we’re going to have to deal with it, it was a great season overall and we can’t change the result now.”
The next highest scorer was Pentucket’s Krystal Knight with 32, followed by Amesbury’s Paddy Flahardy and Lowell Deschenes, who each had 31, and four other players who finished with 30.
Players went out in groups of four, with one player on each team competing in each group. As each group came in, the players shared their scores with the coaches, and early on it became evident that Amesbury and Triton would go down to the wire.
Triton maintained a two to three point lead for the first five pairs, but Amesbury pulled ahead after Kyle Patterson beat out Triton’s Sam Ross by a margin of 30 points to 23. Triton pulled back within one when David Batterton came in with the next group ahead of Anthony Tomkiewicz 21 to 18, and with Triton’s Jake Aponas and Amesbury’s Sam Burnham tied going into the final hole, it became clear that The Rat would come down to the final stroke.
In the end, Burnham was able to hold Aponas off by finishing the hole tied, giving the Indians the dramatic 207-206 victory.
“It was a great match, Amesbury was the better team today by one point,” said Triton coach Rich Dube. “This is why we do The Rat, to compete in a different environment with four teams, and it’s a lot of fun for the kids out there.”
Unlike most matches, in which only the top six scores from each team are taken into consideration, the River Rival Tournament uses scores from all eight competitors. When applying traditional match rules, Amesbury swept all three teams with 170 points. Triton beat Newburyport and Pentucket with 166 points, and Newburyport edged out Pentucket 142 to 137 despite the fact that the Sachems scored higher under River Rival rules.
With their losses to Amesbury and Triton, Newburyport’s late-season comeback falls just short as the Clippers end their season at 7-10. Had Newburyport won all three River Rival matches, the Clippers would have qualified for the state tournament despite starting the year 3-7.
Pentucket has one more match today against Georgetown, but at 5-9 the Sachems will not compete in the state tournament either.
Though Triton missed out on the three-peat in the River Rivals Tournament, the Vikings will finish the season 16-4 and could also finish as Cape Ann League Kinney Division co-champions with Hamilton-Wenham should the Generals lose to Amesbury today.
“We’re Amesbury fans today,” Dube said.
Regardless of the result of that match, Triton will join Amesbury in the state tournament next week.
The complete list of scorers was as follows.
Amesbury: Paddy Flahardy, 31 points; Fred Halloran, 30 points; Brendan Foley, 20 points; Lowell Deschenes, 31 points; Dominic Tomkiewicz, 19 points; Kyle Patterson, 30 points; Anthony Tomkiewicz, 18 points; Sam Burnham, 28 points.
Newburyport: Travis Koocher, 25 points; Griffin Brown, 30 points; Ben Ventura, 24 points; Peter Pantelis, 21 points; Andrew Coulombe, 22 points; Austin Elmore, 20 points; David Sokol, 11 points; Juliana Noce, 15 points.
Pentucket: Krystal Knight, 32 points; Dan Beaton, 19 points; Mitch Murray, 17 points; Brandon Daniels, 20 points; Reese Dwyer, 23 points; Ben Brackbill, 19 points; Lucas Chory, 16 points; Cam Wolbach, 24 points.
Triton: Jon Seward, 36 points; Mike Shea, 28 points; Brett Greenberg, 20 points; Brad Small, 30 points; Drew Lapham, 20 points; Sam Ross, 23 points; David Batterton, 21 points; Jake Aponas, 28 points.