Matt Lesinski fell in love at the Airport Driving Range.
That’s where the then-12-year-old got his first taste of golf, a sport that has been his passion ever since.
Lesinski remembers the day his uncle Mike surprised him and his brother Mark suggesting a trip to the driving range on Youngs Road. Providing the boys with a used set of ladies Slazenger clubs, uncle Mike told the boys to “grip it and rip it.
“He gave us a couple pointers. The first couple shots were a little shaky, but before I knew it, it wasn’t too bad,” said Lesinski, who now hits about 280 yards off the tee. “We’ve been playing ever since. I love it, it’s what we do.”
Lesinski is the only senior on a Williamsville North team which just won its second straight ECIC Large North Division title, finishing both years 10-0.
He finished second in the ECIC this fall in stroke average (37.3) behind teammate and sophomore Ben Reichert (36.8). Lesinski, Reichert and Andrew Kempton of Clarence shared the low round 9-hole score of the season with 34s.
They will be among the favorites today to win the ECIC Championship at Diamond Hawk Golf Course in Cheektowaga when a field of 80 players from 23 schools tees off at 9 a.m. The top 24 advance to the Section VI championship in May.
After graduating five from last year’s team, expectations for the Spartans this year were modest. What’s helped carry this year’s team is the play of its sophomores. Reichert already has qualified for two state tournaments and is also a fixture in all the major offseason junior events when he’s not playing out of Transit Valley CC.
“Ben is a very mature golfer for his age of 15. He manages the golf course well, and he looks for opportunities to make birdies,” said North coach John Burns. “He’s very, very consistent with his scoring and that’s why he’s been so successful. His upside is being young, and a very hard worker.”
North had a third golfer ranked among the top 10 in the ECIC in scoring average. Junior Tim Kreuz finished at 39.5.
“Ben, Matt and Tim have been the nucleus and the reason we’ve been 10-0 last two years,” said Burns. “One of the things we try to do is get together as a team and hit balls and play in sorts of tournaments. High school becomes a continuation of what we try to do all summer.”
Starpoint won its fifth straight ECIC North Small division title at 8-0. Junior Sean Brown averaged 40.1 for nine this year followed by senior Will Hoffman (41.2) and Andrew Murchison (42.4).
Orchard Park claimed the Large School South Division with a 10-0 mark. Senior Adam Patronik (40.2) and junior Erich Spitz (40.6) led the Quakers. Three seniors, Aaron Orechwa (39.2), Trevor Dobrzemski (40.1) and AJ Feldman (40.2) helped Eden win the Small School South division with a 10-0 record.
No one played better golf in the Niagara-Orleans League this fall than Barker. The Raiders finished 13-0-1 this year, 14-0 last year and won their last six matches in 2011 to extend their unbeaten streak to 34 in league matches.
The regular season success has carried over into the N-O team tournament as they made it a three-peat this year. Sophomore Brad Wilson was medalist of the event shooting a 79 at Willowbrook.
“My first year as a coach he was a seventh grader and he just picked up the game, he’s a natural,” said coach Tim Daley. “By his eighth grade year he was in varsity matches. You can show him something and he picks it up right away. He’s an easy kid to coach, modest, a good student and a hard worker.”
The team MVP the last four years and stroke average leader the last two has been senior Mitch Luckman.
Sacred Heart plays in the Monsignor Martin Association, but it is really in a league of its own.
The Sharks finished 10-0, winning its matches by a combined total of 935 shots. The Sharks also were 10-0 a year ago.
“We’re losing two seniors, and I’m going to miss them dearly, but we have a wealth of talent coming up behind them,” said coach Ken McKinnon. “We should have a very strong team for some time to come.”
Of the 14 girls who qualified for Wednesday’s All-Catholics, seven are from Sacred Heart. The event tees off at 12:30 p.m. Senior Emily Connors led the league with a 39.3 average for nine holes. Others in the low 40s were sophomore junior Victoria Parker (40.7), Lauren Kase (41.2) and senior Sarah Notaro (42.1).
The future of the program is in the capable hands of sophomore Victoria Pannell, sophomore Natalie Inchioso and freshmen Ava Rinaldi and Anna Yeager.
Niagara Frontier League
Niagara-Wheatfield won the NFL Tournament by a single stroke, 443-444, over Lockport at Willowbrook Golf Course.
The Falcons had four golfers finish within six strokes of each other led by Jack Travers’ 84. Third-place Kenmore East was five shots back. Kevin Borowicz from fifth-place Grand Island claimed medalist honors (75). Lockport won the regular season NFL title.