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Great Neck proves a great host for East Lyme as it captures ECC boys' golf crown

May 30—WATERFORD — Something about Great Neck Country Club brings out the best in the East Lyme High school golf team. Or maybe the Vikings are just pretty darn good.

Bet on the latter.

East Lyme captured its second Eastern Connecticut Conference boys' golf tournament since 1973 on Thursday. Great Neck also served as host the last time the Vikings won it in 2019.

"Too bad it's not here all the time," East Lyme coach Rudy Bagos said with a laugh.

The Vikings backed up what they did during a strong regular season.

With medalist Tyler Moore leading the way at 3-over 74, East Lyme cruised to the title, finishing with 315 strokes to beat runner-up Wheeler at 328. Waterford (335), Woodstock Academy (343) and Norwich Free Academy (346) rounded out the top five.

"I'm just so happy for these kids," Bagos said. "They deserve it."

Balance and depth carried the Vikings, as all five golfers shot 82 or better. Junior Jack Bucko placed sixth overall with a 79, followed by senior Max Weston (80), junior Sebby DeCosta and senior Nate Blankenship both at 82.

Despite being the pre-tournament favorite, Bagos didn't relax until the Vikings nearly finished their rounds.

Bagos knew from experience that funny things can happen during 18-hole events.

"It's a one-day tournament, so if you have a bad day, you can be in trouble," Bagos said. "Any time you can win this, you're fortunate."

Moore, who plays at No. 1 for East Lyme, also led the field for most of his round. Every couple of holes, he checked the CIAC golf app to track his competitors.

He left no doubt about winning medalist honors for the first time in his career by sinking a short birdie putt on No. 18.

"I couldn't be happier for Tyler," Bagos said. "This is his junior year and he's such a good player. The first two years playing in these 18-hole tournaments, he struggled. The two scores that he had in previous years didn't indicate the type of player he was. I'm glad this score shows the kind of player that he is."

Overall, Moore played steady golf.

He finished with three birdies, including sinking a 25-foot putt on No. 5.

"It gave me a nice boost," Moore said.

Moore felt good about accomplishing his goal of winning the individual title.

"I finally got it done my junior year, so I'm happy about that," Moore said.

There were a few unexpected individual performances.

Waterford sophomore Ethan Haynes and Griswold junior Gennaro Lavado tied for second at 77, both shooting their best competitive rounds of their high school careers.

Haynes credited playing on his team's home course for a strong showing.

"I definitely had some concerns if I was going to play well or not against the players in the ECC tournament, but I overcame those experiences and I played well," Haynes said. "Playing on my home course is definitely an advantage and a key factor in placing in the top three."

Only three strokes separated second from ninth place.

Bacon Academy senior Alex Gallardo and Woodstock senior Don Sousa tied for fourth at 78.

Senior Tyler Signor, who tied Bucko and Waterford freshman Wyatt Haynes for sixth at 79, helped runner-up Wheeler to its best-ever finish in the tournament.

"I'm proud of the guys," Wheeler coach Carl Weber said. "It's been a four-year build-up. We were hoping to give East Lyme a challenge. But we went in in second place and we held on to that spot against some much bigger schools."

"That's all I can ask for from these guys. They're not happy with the way they played today, but it's fine. East Lyme is a very good team and they shot a very low score."

g.keefe@theday.com