Tom Heslin is used to cheering for the underdog.
Not that he enjoys it, but as a fan of the Boston Red Sox and coach of the Severn golf team, he's had limited options.
Severn's golf team, which failed to qualify for Maryland Scholastic Association tournament last season, is stacked with talented golfers and, in Heslin's eyes, is a favorite to win the conference championship.
While the title is no lock for the Admirals, Heslin expects his team's physical size and depth will take it to thetop of the MSA leader board.
"We would really like to hang a banner in our gym this year," said Heslin, whose team easily disposed of St. Mary's last week, 16-2. "I really think it's our turn to win. We're solid all the way from our first through sixth positions. We don'thave any real weakness at any position."
Seniors John Collins andEric Kazmierczak are Severn's strongest performers and will flip-flop at the No. 1 and No. 2 positions. Collins, who transferred to Severn last season, finished fourth in the individual tournament last season while Kazmierczak, a four-year player, came back from an arm injury to finish 14th.
"Our No. 1 and No. 2 guys are almost interchangeable," Heslin said. "It's almost like having two No. 1 guys. Every team has a golfer that is terrific, and we have a few."
Heslin attributes Collins' success to a rare combination of physical skills and mental poise under pressure. Collins' 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame make him an intimidating figure in any tee box, but it's his mental statureon and off the course that excites his coach.
"He's probably the most thoughtful golfer I've ever coached," said Heslin. "His approachto each shot is well thought out, and he makes very few tactical mistakes. He backs that up with tremendous physical skills. He's a big hitter, but he's always under control."
The same can be said for Kazmierczak, who at 6-foot-2, 165 pounds has the ability to turn area courses into pitch-and-putts.
"His physical skills are as good as anyone," Heslin said. "He's a long hitter who has already driven four of the par-four greens at Bay Hills Golf Club (which range from 270 to 320 yards). He's been with us for four years and he's gotten steadily better. He has no holes in his game."
The only team in the division Heslin sees standing in his team's way of a conference title is Calvert Hall. However, with his team's depth, even that appears unlikely.
"I don't see my No. 4 or 5 losing to anyone this year," he said. "My No. 2 player could be No. 1 at any other school in our conference, and my No. 3 guy could be No. 1 at most of them. I'm not used to this."
Occupying the No. 3 slot for the Admirals this season is Mike Fisher. The 5-foot-11 senior is another "big hitter," but is notquite as seasoned as Collins and Kazmierczak.
"He's capable of hitting the ball a long, long way," said his coach. "He's another intelligent player but he doesn't have quite the depth of experience of John and Eric, but he's an all-around good athlete. It was my good fortune that he never took to lacrosse."
Sophomore Andrew Jones, Severn's lone underclassman, has assumed the role as No. 4 man, but more importantly, will return next season.
"I'm glad he's at Severn and even happier that he's only a sophomore," said Heslin, who will lose four of his six players to graduation. "We've got lots of seniors so we're combing the woods for players for next year. He has a lot of raw talent and a lot of summer experience. He hits the ball very far but he's still learning to straighten out his shots."
Rounding out the No. 5 and 6 spots for Severn are junior Budge Collinson and seniorBart Schaefer, respectively. Neither are drenched with experience, but both have already exhibited serious potential.
"Budge didn't decide until last year that he liked golf and already I've heard from golf pros that he has a near perfect swing," said Heslin. "Bart can hit the ball 250 yards at times. He's an Ian Woosnam type."
Whether the Admirals can live up to their advanced billing remains to be seen, but one thing their detractors can never accuse them of is pessimism.
"I think we can go 12-0 and win the championship," said Kazmierczak. "We have to play well week in and week out, and we can't go to sleep."