After capturing low-medalist honors at the District V and county golf tournaments earlier this season, Arundel's Gary Carpenter felt confident this was his year to make his mark at the state tournament.
"I haven't played well at the states the past two years, but I will this season," Carpenter said Oct. 16, shortly after winning a sudden-death playoff over teammate Kurt Osborne to claim the county's individual title.
"I'm trying to win it."
Carpenter's ordinary rounds of 78 and 74 at the University of Maryland at College Park didn't hold up against Colyn Keller's record-setting net score of 143, but they were goodenough for a fourth-place individual trophy.
What Carpenter, the Anne Arundel County Sun's Golfer of the Year, managed to do, however,was lift the Wildcats to their first Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association state golf title.
"I was excited for Gary and the success he had this season, but this team did not ride his coattails," said Arundel coach Carol Nutt, the Anne Arundel County Sun'sCoach of the Year. "It's nice to not have to rely on one player. It was a total team effort in all three tournaments."
Arundel first exhibited its profound depth at the District V Tournament on Oct. 7 atWakefield Valley Golf Course Country Club in Westminster, when it finished with a team score of 313 -- 28 strokes lower than runner-up Broadneck. Carpenter, a junior, again led the field with a low-round 72, three strokes better Osborne.
The Wildcats' dominance carried over to the county tournament at Dwight D. Eisenhower Golf Course in Crownsville, where they posted a team score of 307, easily defeating second-place Broadneck (337).
The Arundel contingent nabbed five of the six spots at Eisenhower, with Carpenter's and Osborne's scores complemented by those of teammates Andy Furtado (78), Kris Niemi (79), Graham Niemi (80) and Paul Wills (81).
"I knew we could win the county, but I never would have thought we would win the states," Carpenter admitted. "After the districts, we started believing that we could win the states. We saw some of the team scores that the Montgomery County schools were shooting and we knew we would be competitive.
"I was really happy with the way I played (at states). It wasn't the best I could play, but it was a lot better than the past two years. Ifinally found my game and my putter."
What Nutt, a seventh-year coach who twice had teams tie for third at the states, discovered at College Park was the Wildcats' ability to retain their poise and composure while on top.
"They weren't at all intimidated by winning, which some teams sometimes are," said Nutt, who will lose only two players, Osborne and Graham Niemi, to graduation. "It was a good feeling to win and it restored faith in my own confidence that what I envisioned was really possible. It's nice to know you have a good perspective of your team."
Carpenter's performance this high school season, coupled with his U.S. Golf Association-approved four-handicap,
allowed him to participate in this year's ESPN-sponsored Junior Golf Tour.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound player recently returned from the MarcoIsland Golf Resort near Naples, Fla., where he took part in the first event of the seven-part series. Carpenter's two-day rounds of 76 and 73 earned him a second-place finish in a fixed field of 220 nationally ranked golfers.
Crofton Country Club's three-time defending junior titlist is preparing for the second leg of the series, which takes place next weekend in Mesa, Ariz.