Portland’s Luke Stennett hits long, confident to go the course

OLD LYME – Luke Stennett is easy to spot among his teammates on the Portland boys’ golf team. It is he who wears shoes of two different colors.

High school golfers usually wear at least the same color of shirt during games. Stennett does too, but he’s someone who likes to show a bit of style on the golf course.

“I’m a stylish guy. I kind of try to stand out as much as possible because if you stand out you know you’re playing well.

Don’t confuse her confidence with arrogance. The 16-year-old second has confidence because he has game. At one of the smallest schools in the state, Stennett is already one of the CIAC’s best golfers.

“He has this ability to run and it’s pretty scary to watch. He can master a course and he can do that with his iron and other parts of his game as well,” Portland coach Joe Santavenere said. .

This “game” also includes the ability to hit the ball out of sight. Stennett said he regularly punched his driver for more than 300 yards.

He said the farthest drive he has reached in Connecticut is 340 yards. The longest drive he’s ever done? He traveled about 370 meters in Arizona.

“It’s a different sound, a different feel, a different look. It comes out of his club differently,” Santavenere said.

In December 2020, Stennett participated in a Hurricane Tour event in Florida. There was also a national long drive competition. His father Zac said he rode 308 yards to lead after the first lap.

Luke ended up finishing second in the 14-15 age group.

“To hit a ball that hard, you have to have efficient mechanics, not unnecessary movement. For more direct contact, you place it. Your clubface can’t come in at an angle,” Zac Stennett said. Another thing he does well is that his upper body follows his hips.”

Santavenere was Stennett’s fifth-grade math and science teacher at Brownstone Intermediate School in Portland.

“He arrived with trophies and medals. I didn’t see his swing then, but I knew he was pretty good,” Santavenere said. “I met his dad at parent-teacher meetings, so I had an idea, but I didn’t know how good he would be until I saw him play.”

It didn’t take long once Santavenere found out. Luke Stennett has topped the Highlanders’ starting lineup since his opening game as a rookie.

“You always have to show commitment to the team and show the coach that you are capable of playing and earning his trust throughout the year,” Stennett said. “You have to work for this (No. 1). After the trials he saw that I was able to play well and I was able to continue to play well.

Said Santavenere: “The way he hit the ball, from day one it was pretty clear that he was going to be our No. 1.”

Stennett, who repeatedly shot a career-best 64 balls and has a handicap rating of over 2.3, was a medalist in all but three of his regular-season games in his first season. He has won medal laurels in five of his six games so far this season.

Last season, he placed second in the Shoreline Conference Championship Game, shooting a 76, but still helped Portland win the tag team title. Stennett then shot an even par 72 to help the Highlanders win their fourth Division IV state championship in the last five attempts.

“If your confidence is good heading into the tournament, you should be doing pretty well,” Stennett said.

“Every time I’m on the course I try to fully commit to what I want to do. I’m not trying to birdie every hole, but on the holes you want, you want to play aggressively and get that good score. Last year at the Shoreline and in the United States, I was very comfortable with the layouts of the courses. I just trusted myself knowing that I could play well there- low.

Stennett finished tied for eighth at the State Open with a 74. He earned a spot on GameTimeCT’s all-state team.

Zac said Luke had recently undergone a swing change under the watchful eye of his instructor George Connor. As impressive as Luke’s coaching is, those wishing to succeed in golf know far more than is necessary.

“These days for junior golf, varsity (Division I) coaches probably don’t look at someone if they’re not hitting 300,” Zac said.

Luke said he saw a Michael Jordan golf brand that had two shoes that looked totally different. He bought himself an Adidas brand offering golf shoes in different colors.

He won the first tournament he entered wearing the new shoes. He’s been wearing them ever since.

Zac has created a spring and summer golf program that includes a mix of state junior events and AJGA tournaments. This summer will be a big step towards the college level.

The playoffs are fast approaching. Can Luke Stennett repeat as Division IV State Champion and help the team repeat as well?

“Being able to know that we are capable (of accomplishing it), as long as we work as hard as we can, we should be able to accomplish this,” Luke said.

[email protected]; @nhrJoeMorelli

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