By Jim Fenton, The Enterprise
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BROCKTON – The Massasoit Community College golf team made history in just its fourth year of existence this spring.
The Warriors qualified for their first appearance in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division 3 tournament after winning their initial Region 21 championship last month in Cranston, R.I.
Massasoit will take part in the four-day national tourney in Chautauqua, N.Y., located in the western part of the state, beginning Tuesday morning at Chautauqua Country Club.
"We are incredibly honored,″ said DeCoste, who qualified for the nationals as an individual last year. "All four of us are honored to be the first team from Massasoit. It's humbling. It'll be great.″
The Massasoit program started in 2015 with Mike Cappadona qualifying for the nationals as an individual. Mike Croatti was named head coach starting in 2016 and he has moved the Warriors in the right direction.
"I was saying to the guys they're leaving a pretty good legacy, turning Massasoit golf so competitive so quick,″ said Croatti, whose team left for New York Sunday morning. "Massasoit golf wasn't even on the map. We'd have a golfer here or there, and this year, we just kind of struck gold getting six kids on the team and four qualifying as a team for the nationals.
"They're pretty gifted players. It's just pretty special how they were able to make such an impact and hopefully we might have the grassroots of something in place to get a few more kids in the program in the years to come.″
Said McMorrow: "We have a solid foursome. I knew we had the potential at the beginning of the year and we put it all together. Winning the regional at Massasoit meant a lot. It's unbelievable to be the first one to win it.″
The golf team joins the men's soccer, men's basketball and softball teams at Massasoit as champions of Region 21 in the 2017-18 academic year.
DeCoste is the lone returning player after putting together a solid freshman season that ended with a trip to the nationals. The former Massasoit baseball player was joined this season by three talented freshmen, and Flipp finished fourth in the regional with McMorrow two spots behind him.
"We had an idea that we might be pretty competitive just looking at the kids and their backgrounds,″ said Croatti. "Chris Flipp, we saw his history in Massachusetts amateur tournaments where he shot really well and the same thing with Chris McMorrow.
"Shawn was a wild card. We didn't know much about him. He's about our most consistent player. You pretty much know what you're going to get with him. He'll consistently be in the mid-80s. Jack is able to provide that veteran leadership because he's gone through this experience and can navigate the younger guys through this.″
Croatti said that no one player is counted on to lead the way, and the regional was won because of the close range of scores posted by the four Warriors.
"The other schools have a couple of individuals are very good players,″ said Croatti. "You need four good scores to qualify and it seemed every school was struggling to find that fourth scorer. With us, we knew we'd be pretty consistent across the board.
"The kids are going to be in the low to mid 80s or upper 70s every time they play. We know we'll be in every match. We don't get deflated because someone is going to shoot in the upper 90s or 100.″
Jack DeCoste will use his experience from the trip to the nationals last year to help his first-year players prepare for being in a new environment.
"It's night and day compared to other tournaments,″ he said. "You are treated like a pro. It's really a big deal.
"It's going to be completely different being part of the team. As nice as it was last year, it's great to have the team going. It's going to be awesome.″
The Warriors headed to Chautauqua not satisfied with just being in the nationals. They are hoping to make the most out of the program's first time in the spotlight.
"I think we have the potential to do really well,″ said McMorrow. "It's going to be a fun time, all four of us out there playing good golf.″
Said Jack DeCoste: "We have a strong team with four guys who can go low every day. I think it'll be good to see how well we can play. We've all said we made it to nationals, let's go have a lot of fun, but we should probably take a shot at this. We have a good chance to finish in the top five teams.″
For Croatti, the success of this season could turn into a building block to establish Massasoit golf as a winning program.
"I think there's a lot of untapped golf potential on the South Shore,″ he said. "Golf's now a sport you don't have to be old to play. You're going to see a lot more talent at the high school level and with that, it's more of an opportunity to go out and recruit these kids.
"We have a regional championship and some exposure at nationals, it makes it that much easier to sell the program.″