The quality of golfers produced in Rhode Island is completely out of proportion to the Ocean State’s population.
Witness the state’s two latest “phenoms” – Cumberland High senior Jamison Randall and La Salle Academy senior Juliet Vongphoumy.
Randall last summer won three tournaments: the World Series of Junior Golf, the Rhode Island Golfers Junior Championships and the New England Junior Championships which he captured in a sudden-death playoff.
Randall, who gained early acceptance to Old Dominion University (he’s receiving a partial athletic and academic scholarship), has one goal on his mind this season: Win the Rhode Island Interscholastic League State Tournament, after finishing second last year to Barrington’s Jared Adams.
At the recent 29th annual Challenge Cup Championship held at Cranston’s Alpine Country club, Randall finished second to Portsmouth junior Alex Grimes – whom he beat, 2-and-1, in the finals of the 2010 RIGA Juniors.
But in the opinion of Cumberland coach Jim Dickinson, Randall’s best days are ahead of him this season.
Dickinson stated that the fact Randall has been accepted at Old Dominion has allowed him to focus on “simply” playing golf instead of playing to gain admission to a college.
The last clipper to win the state championship was Chris Simmons in 1989.
Vongphoumy is a story all by herself since she’s the daughter of Laotian immigrants and because she stunned the state’s golfing community when, as a freshman in 2008, she captured the state’s 36-hole tournament by two strokes.
Just over a year ago, she became only the second player in who knows how many years to capture three consecutive American Junior Golf Association girls’ tournaments.
No wonder Vongphoumy was offered a full ride by Maryland. She also was recruited by other ACC schools like Duke and Boston College.
Vongphoumy honed her skills last year at Hilton Head Prep School in South Carolina before returning to La Salle for her senior year.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that Randall and Vongphoumy could play against each other in the 2011 state tournament.
KNIGHTS CHARGING FORWARD
Unlike the Central High boys’ basketball team, which has won 11 state championships at the Division I level, the baseball team only has won a single state title – in 2006 when the Knights prevailed in the now-defunct Division III.
That drought may be about to change considering the Knights’ success as the Interscholastic League season nears the mid-way point. Coach Dave Hansen’s team leads Division II-Central with a 9-1 record due in large part to a senior-laden team. Central’s talent was on full display in a recent 10-0 romp over division rival Juanita Sanchez when Wailder Luna tossed a one-hit shutout and Manny Melo belted a three-run homer.
Luna entered this week with a 3-0 record in four starts plus a sub-2.00 ERA.
Melo, a senior, doubles as Central’s center fielder as well as the team’s closer.
Ironically, a junior, catcher Johnathan Salcedo is leading the team in batting with a .572 average.
According to Hansen, he wasn’t sure what his team was capable of doing entering this season. But the Knights have been out-hitting teams and have been even more difficult to beat when they play defense.
That was the case in a key 4-1 crossover victory against II-North Woonsocket when Central out-hit the Villa Novans 8-5 (behind Luna), and only committed a respectable two errors.
CLASH OF THE TITANS
Division I-Central leader Hendricken and I-North leader Lincoln hooked up on Monday and the Hawks, who’ve won 16 state championships, beat the Lions, 5-1, as Tom Pannone tossed a three-hitter and also stroked an RBI single.
Cranston West, who also is in contention for the I-Central title, posted a big crossover victory last week against Lincoln – 8-7 as catcher Jeff Diehl (who’s been the object of numerous college and pro scouts’ attention) scored the winning run in the seventh on Alex Moretti’s double.
LIONS, CHARGERS TOUGH IN SOFTBALL
Lincoln and Chariho could be on a collision course for the state Division I softball championship – especially in recent results are any indication.
The Lions, led by All-State pitcher Alyssa McCoart, and Chariho, led by senior co-captains Makalya Clarke and Becky Williams, remained undefeated entering this week in their respective divisions.
Lincoln moved to 9-0 in I-North due to a combination of solid pitching and explosive hitting.
McCoart, who will play here college softball at Central Connecticut State, is 6-0 on the mound and is hitting .654 at the plate.
As a result, Lincoln has outscored its opposition 71-13.
Chariho is 8-0 in I-South after outlasting North Kingstown, 12-10.
Freshman Brianna Cole belted a home run to help pace the Chargers.
LA SALLE STICKMEN PERFECT
La Salle Academy’s boys have staked their claim as the team to beat in Division I.
Coach Steve O’Donnell’s Rams are 4-0 after routing defending state champion Moses Brown, 19-11, and arch-rival Hendricken, 11-1.
The Quakers beat the Rams in overtime in the 2010 finals while the Hawks beat the Rams in the 2009 semifinals.
So, how do you spell La Salle has a score or two to settle?
Long-stick defensemen Vito Capuano, Will Sturgis, Cody O’Connell, Ryan Gallogly and Matt Powers have been keys to La Salle’s success.
LEYS BIDS ADIEU
Middletown, and the Interscholastic League as a whole, lost a superb football coach when Andy Leys announced his retirement effective immediately in order to devote more time to his family.
Under Leys’ guidance, the Islanders posted a combined 33-15 record in Divisions III and IV over the last six years and won the 2010 Division III Super Bowl.
Leys also coached Middletown to the 2006 Division IV Super Bowl crown.
Mike Scandura has been covering high school sports, college basketball, football and hockey, plus minor league baseball in Rhode Island since the early 1970s. A native of Oswego, N.Y. he’s a member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame which is the statewide organization of sportswriters, sportscasters and sports publicists.