St. Joseph’s College sophomore Brendan Donovan had some local knowledge last weekend at the Maine Intercollegiate Golf Association Championship at Martindale Country Club in Auburn, where the Auburn native and St. Dom’s graduate carded a 153 (74-79) over two rounds to place ninth.
The Monks’ top golfer on the weekend, Donovan used to call Martindale home.
“Two or three years ago I had a membership, and I stopped,” Donovan said. “This past summer, I had another membership there. I knew the course fairly well, pretty good, but not like the back of my hand like Fox Ridge. I knew it enough to miss it in the right places if I didn’t hit the golf shot that I wanted to.”
It was another consistent performance for Donovan in his first full year on the St. Joe’s varsity squad, and his second top-10 finish of the year.
In high school, Donovan couldn’t help but know Fox Ridge well — he was a four-year member of the St. Dom’s varsity team and helped the Saints earn Class C state championships his freshman and sophomore years. He was a first-team all-state his senior year and carried an 8-handicap.
When he arrived at St. Joe’s last fall as a freshman, he was on the sidelines; the varsity team was full.
He knew he wasn’t going to get much playing time early on, and he used that as motivation.
“It told me to work harder and realize there was going to be more competition in college,” Donovan said. “I knew my captain last year was a senior and was leaving this year. I knew there was going to be one more spot at least, but I still needed to go out every single day at least hit balls if I am not going to the course (to play) to get better in the summer.”
That senior captain, Mike Caron, helped lead the Monks to an NCAA Division III tournament berth this past spring.
In the second half of the year, Donovan did slot into one of the five spots in the varsity lineup. In seven events he had a 18-hole average of 88.3. He had one top-10 finish and four finishes inside the top-20.
He also leaned on a teammate who was an old rival, Adam Hachey, in transitioning from high school to college golf. The two played against each other in the MVC when Hachey played for Winthrop.
“He was someone I already knew, someone I could talk to if I needed help and stuff,” Donovan said. “If I had any questions or anything, I knew he would be there, like he could answer them. Especially with him being a year older than me, he was here for a year (already).”
Coach Jamie Smyth knew Donovan could have competed in the top five on most other teams in the GNAC Conference.
“It certainly was not a matter of him not working hard enough,” Smyth said. “Our team went to the national tournament, we had a lot of depth and a lot of good players … He could have gone one of two ways, sulked about it and been disappointed, or work hard and try to get himself into that starting lineup. That’s the route he chose, and it certainly has paid off for him this year.”
He has dropped seven strokes on his average this year, which now stands at 81.1.
Smyth wasn’t expecting Donovan to fill Caron’s shoes right away, but to do what he has done and shave some strokes on his average.
“I actually remember a conservation I had with him and another sophomore we have in Tyler Johnson,” Smyth said. “With the loss of Mike Caron, those guys were teetering in five-, six-, seven-slot last year. I told both of them, we will need them to step up this year and fill Michael shoes and contribute. Like I said, Brendan could have started on a lot of teams we played against last year and been a contributor for them.”
If Donovan continues to put the work in, the sky’s the limit on how far he can climb the team’s ladder.
“If he continues to work hard and continues to improve he maybe in the middle of our lineup in the next few years,” Smyth said.
Donovan said he’s setting his eyes on a top three once he becomes an upperclassman.
St. Joe’s sophomore Brendan Donovan staring down a shot.
St. Joe’s sophomore Brendan Donovan lines up on a approach shot.