EAST PROVIDENCE — When the East Providence High School golf team walked off the course late last spring, there was no guarantee the Townies would field another squad in the future after Budget Commission imposed cuts to the athletic department included slashing funding for the program.
That news didn’t sit very well with long-time East Providence head coach Bill McEnery, who almost immediately upon hearing of his team’s impending demise began a tireless fundraising effort to keep it intact.
Mr. McEnery’s efforts proved fruitful as the Townies will continue their decades-old tradition of teeing up on the golf course in 2013 and beyond.
A dozen young men and women comprise the EPHS golf squad this spring led by senior captain and four-year player Katelyn Blackmar. Casey Cullinan is the other senior on the team.
The juniors are Miles Cunningham, Brandon DaSilva, Brandon Hulsebus and Hailey St. Onge. The sophomores are Collin Cardoso, Corey Cullinan, Darren Ellinwood and Evan Milne. Freshmen on the team are Jacob Crombie and Cody DeCastro.
The six returning players (Blackmar, Ellinwood, DaSilva, Cardoso, Cunningham and Corey Cullinan) have some varsity experience. The six newcomers have little to no competitive experience on the course.
“When I was trying to keep the program going my biggest concern was turn-out. I wasn’t sure I would have enough players to make a team,” Coach McEnery said. “Twelve is a good number. I’m very happy with the turn-out.”
The Townies vie in the Eastern Division during the regular season, a grouping that includes the state’s all-time best program and perennial power Barrington as well as Portsmouth. Mt. Hope and Middletown are the other high-ranking teams this spring.
Coach McEnery expects his Townies to be in the mix for a playoff spot with the likes of Bay View, Rogers and Tiverton. The top two teams in the regular season standings earn automatic berths into the state championship tournament at the end of the year. The teams in places three to five conduct a one-round playoff for the other spot from the East Division into the state tourney.
“I think we can make the fifth spot. It’s not going to be easy. We have a lot of inexperience, but we can be competitive,” Coach McEnery said.
The Townies would not have the chance to be competitive or exist even if not for the coach, who solicited support from golf-minded members of the community for the better part of the last year to help fund the team.
Donations came in many forms and sizes. The largest single contributor was city businessman and golf enthusiast Michael Huber, who donated $5,000 to the cause.
The main fundraising tool was a tournament, the Townie Cup, which Coach McEnery and others put together and was played late last fall at nearby Firefly Golf Course in Seekonk. Four teams representing Metacomet Country Club, the long-time home of EPHS, Wannamoisett, Segregansett and Friends of Townie Golf competed in the event.
Team Metacomet won Townie Cup with combined team score of 678. Wannamoisett was second at 718 followed by Segregansett at 735 and Friends of Townie Golf at 742. A total of 68 golfers participated. Metacomet’s Ricky Audette was the day’s medalist.
In all, nearly $12,000 was raised for the program, which should allow for the golf team to remain viable for at least another two years after this spring.
“It was very successful. Everyone had a good time. The course was in good shape. Everything went well,” Coach McEnery said of the Townie Cup. He made special mention of the support he received in running the tournament from Joe Sprague Jr., Dana Peters, Pete Basler and Dan Blessing.
According to the coach, a total of 113 people played some sort of role in helping keeping the EPHS golf team afloat and in a show of appreciation he had that number embroidered on the collar of the players’ match shirts this spring.
“These people believed in the program. They supported us,” Coach McEnery said of the number 113. “The golf team would not be around if it wasn’t for their efforts.”
The Townies open up their 2013 season with an Eastern Division match against Portsmouth Thursday, April 11. East Providence then plays in the annual Challenge Cup over the spring break at Alpine Country Club in Cranston.