A Battle to the No. 1 Spot: Thousand Islands High School talent on the rise, with two players driving towards greatness

DAYTONA NILES / NNY GOLF
Matt Barton and Tyler Turgeon are two upcoming talents on the 2018 Thousand Island High School golf team.

BY: Norah Machia
Matt Barton opened the high school golf season May 1 in the No. 1 spot for Thousand Islands, was then overtaken by teammate Tyler Turgeon for the top spot entering their second match, and played his way back into first-man duties for the Vikings’ third match later that week.

    The early shuffling at the top of the lineup between first cousins and longtime playing companions — both of whom are intensely committed to the sport and are aiming to play in college — has set the tone for a deep and inter-competitive Thousand Islands squad looking to build on a prolific 2017 season for the program.

    The Vikings won each of their first two matches away from their home course of C-Way Golf in Clayton to open the 2018 season and already qualified as a team for the Section 3 Tournament based on their top-five combined scores of 208 and 210, respectively, in those outings.

    Nine different golfers claimed a spot in the top six for at least one of the first two matches, and all are shooting average scores under 50 with an 11.5-stroke difference between the top and bottom of the group.

    “Matt (Barton) and Tyler (Turgeon) are just going to push each other back and forth and that’s going to be exciting to watch over the next two years, where they all go and where those two go,” said third-year TI varsity coach Shannon Amo.

    “For those kids to be going back and forth with each other and competing against each other, and everyone having to come to play every night to vie for a spot in the top six is kind of fun to watch for me as a coach, and it’s exciting for the program that we have those type of kids that are golfing,” he added.

    Barton (37.5 average) and Turgeon (38), both juniors, are leading the way early this season and are complemented by Owen Ingerson (41.5), Joey Melfi (42.5), Ethan Crump (44), Xander Howard (44.5), Nate Lashomb (45.5), Tyler’s twin brother Thomas Turgeon (46), and Ryan Cassidy (49).

    The Vikings sent five players to the Section 3 state qualifier last season — Barton, Tyler Turgeon, Melfi, Ingerson, and the graduated Michael Wetterhahn — believed by Amo to be the most in school history, and also captured the Section 3 small schools team championship and posted the best team score at the Frontier League Tournament.

    Barton provided the team’s pinnacle achievement last season when he became the first golfer in school history to qualify for the state tournament, and the first Frontier League golfer to do so since Watertown’s Drew Laemmerman in 2009.

    “It was pretty amazing,” Barton said of the experience. “I always set my goal really high so I definitely want to make it again this year and have a little better showing.”

    Amo said that Barton’s accomplishment has established a benchmark for the rest of his teammates, providing something to strive for while setting an example of what it takes to reach that level.

    Amo said that much of his top nine, which consists of just one senior in Ingerson and features many of the top contributors from the banner 2017 season, has established a goal to reach the Section 3 Tournament, perform strongly and advance to states.

    “I was really proud of Matt (Barton), playing with him growing up we’ve always been right there for each other and I was really proud that he got there as the first one in high school history at TI,” Tyler Turgeon said. “Hopefully I can try to meet him there this year. … Last year I made it to sectionals at Colgate, and I want to make it to states this year. That is the goal.”

    Amo credited his golfers’ commitment to playing frequently on their own and working on their skills independently as the biggest reason for the program’s recent success. He also said most of the unit came from families that either helped spark their interest in the sport or have strongly supported it.

    Barton and Tyler Turgeon said they each started playing with their respective fathers and uncles, and started playing on a course together as a duo every summer day around the age of 12.

    Tom Turgeon, the golf coach at Indian River for more than 25 years, is the father of Tyler and Thomas Turgeon.

    Barton and Tyler Turgeon said they now often play multiple rounds of golf on a typical summer day that they aren’t working, and that dedication has started to work its way through the program.

    “We all play every day after school, Tyler Turgeon said. “It’s not that we play our practice round and then we’re done, we stay out there until dark.”

    Barton added: “I think we all push each other so it kind of raises the bar for our team. We love the competition.”

Barton has participated in several competitive summer tournaments through PGA Junior Tour of Central NY, and qualified for the NYSGA Junior Amateur Championship last June.

    Tyler Turgeon said he plans to do much of the same this summer as the tight-knit pairing looks to continue bringing success to the TI golf program and prepare for a potential future in college golf.

    “They’ve been golfing since they were walking, and those are the type of kids I basically inherited coming into this program,” Amo said. “They love the game, they love to play, and I think that’s why the program is the way it is.”