AUBURN – Watching North Yarmouth Academy place second at last year’s Class C state golf tournament was a kick in the gut.

Just a short time earlier, St. Dom’s narrowly lost to the Panthers in the conference championships for its own chance to play in the states.

“From the day last year ended, and we lost to NYA in the league championship and then NYA came in second at states, they wanted to win a state championship this year,” St. Dom’s coach Kevin Cullen said. “They think like athletes, they’re very competitive.”

Cullen’s golfers think like athletes because they are athletes. The backbone of the Saints’ squad this season is a quartet of juniors.

“You have a couple of hockey players, a couple of kids play baseball, a couple of them play basketball. They’re good athletes,” Cullen said. “They’re also good students.”

Richard Paradis, C.J. Bergeron, D.J. St. Pierre and Greg LaBonte took the loss to NYA last fall personally. Each made it his goal this summer to avenge that loss, to make it to the state tournament and win.

“Seeing what (NYA) did just makes us want to pick up our game so we can be better than what they did last year,” Paradis said.

Paradis is the Saints’ No. 1 player, and likely one of the best in Class C.

“He played all summer, practiced very hard, and I think his handicap last year was a 12. Now, he’s a two,” Cullen said. “He’s a kid that, if he works hard this coming summer as he did last summer, he’s a kid that could be good enough to play Division I golf in a few years. He’s got that much talent.”

The three other juniors, along with senior Nick Levesque, aren’t too far behind.

“Greg LaBonte is a kid who just plays solid,” Cullen said. “He looks at every day and every game as a competition. He wants to beat his opponent, he wants to beat the golf course, he wants to beat his own personal best. C.J., same thing, he’s a hockey player with that same mentality, and D.J., he has untapped potential. (Monday), he shot 39 in practice with an eight, a triple bogey. He finished with an easy eagle on No. 9.”

And while the junior class is the deepest, the Saints are balanced from top to bottom. They have four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen vying for positions this year. They’ve formed a J.V. team, which will play at least an eight-match schedule.

“It makes us play better so we can be better role models for them,” Paradis said. “Even if we have a bad round one day, we can always come back and shoot better the next day, and that’s extra motivation for them, and for us, because it makes us play better.”

“Nobody wants to get replaced,” LaBonte added. “We’re all pretty comfortable with where we’re playing. Getting replaced by an underclassman is kind of embarrassing, so that drives us to play harder and practice harder.”

Even among the varsity golfers, among those juniors, there is plenty of motivation to improve, not the least of which is pride.

“We’re all friends, so we really blended together as a team originally, and we’re real competitive with each other,” St. Pierre said. “That’s what I think makes us the best team out there right now. we all have fun, we all want to be competitive and we all want to win.”

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