Two years ago, Will Parker and his Friends Academy teammates stood atop the hill overlooking the 18th hole at Bethpage Black in defeat. It was a difficult moment but also one that made their victorious return to that spot Wednesday afternoon even sweeter.
Parker shot a 1-over 72 to lead the Quakers to an 8.5-0.5 win over Northport to earn the team’s first Long Island boys golf championship. Will Podbela shot an 80 and Erik Zetterstrom had an 83 for Friends Academy, which fell to Ward Melville in the 2015 championship.
“It’s definitely awesome to come back and conquer this course after a tough loss last time,” Parker said. “It feels so good to get back here and pull through for the win.”
“My sophomore year, we had a great team and we really wanted that Long Island championship and we came up just short,” Podbela said. “That makes this so much more special.”
Parker was at par through nine holes and was 1 over on the back nine, with both his long and short game in top form.
“I just stuck to my game plan of hitting fairways, hitting greens and making pars,” he said.
“He went up-and-down out of the sand with some incredible recovery shots and obviously hit it a mile off the tee,” Friends Academy coach Geoff Nelson said. “He’s a wonderful guy to be around and coach, and he played incredibly today.”
Parker led the way, but Friends Academy went unbeaten in the other matches, which was no small task. Northport did not have a golfer qualify for the state tournament, but still won the Suffolk title in the fall in a display of depth and consistency.
Friends Academy went 11-1 in conference play this season and won the Nassau tournament last week, qualifying three players for the state tournament in the process (Parker, Cristian DelVecchio and Zetterstrom).
“They put in an enormous amount of work to get back here,” Nelson said. “To be sitting on this hillside two years ago in the sting of defeat and be back here in the joy of victory is a great change.”
Aside from winning the title in light of their 2015 defeat, Wednesday’s win had added meaning for Parker, Podbela and Danny McCooey, who played their final match for Friends Academy. Captains Podbela and McCooey will be graduating, while Parker said he will be spending his senior season in Florida playing at Bishops Gate Golf Academy.
“It’s emotional,” Podbela said. “We have a great group of guys and I’m never going to forget this.”
Said Parker: “It’s an awesome way to end my career here at Friends Academy. I finished exactly how I wanted to.”