Golfers find their groove

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

GOOD FINISH ON THE LINKS — Fryeburg Academy golfers (left to right) Liz Dyer, Van B. (“Big Van”) Nguyen and Van L. (“Little Van”) Nguyen closed out their golf seasons with fine showings at the Class B Individual State Championships held at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro. The trio are pictured here with FA golf coach Chris Dutton.

FRYEBURG — Chris Dutton’s goal was to see each of his Raider golfers improve throughout the fall.

If the look on “Little Van’s” face following her performance at the State Individual Golf Championships held at Natanis Golf Course in Vassalboro was an indicator about her season, Dutton achieved the goal.

Van L. (“Little Van”) Nguyen scored a 93 to finish sixth out of the field of 45 girls competing in this year’s States. Little Van was just two shots off of second place. She was seeded 12th entering the State tourney.

Unlike the boys’ state competition, which is broken down by “class,” the girls compete in one division, with Class A, B and C all rolled into one tourney.

Van B. (“Big Van”) Nguyen turned in a round of 104, good for 15th place while FA teammate Liz Dyer shot a 107 for 17th place. Entering States, Big Van was seeded 26th while Dyer was 38th.

“Natanis typically plays a lot tougher than Willowdale (site of the Western qualifier), so scores were expected to be higher, especially with the wet course and windy conditions (on Oct. 15),” Coach Dutton said.

For each golfer, their round at the State tourney capped off a season of growth, determination and “putting it all together” in the end.

Here’s what Coach Dutton had to say about each of his Raider players:

Liz Dyer: A sophomore, Liz initially had some doubts whether she possessed the skills to qualify for the State tourney.

“It seemed like a few weeks ago, I had all I could do to relax her and convince her to try and qualify for States,” Coach Dutton said. “Very tense and nerves kicking in, she qualified for States by three strokes. She said she enjoyed playing, but it was a little nerve-wracking.”

On the day of States, Liz was able to relax somewhat learning she had been paired with the same group she had played with at the qualifier.

“I watched her for about six to eight holes during the day, and she seemed to get more and more relaxed and confident as the day went on,” Coach Dutton said. “Finishing in the Top 20 will set the bar high for her next year, and gives her the confidence that she can do it and be good at it (golf). I expect to tweak some parts of her game, and hope to see a repeat performance.”

Big Van: Big Van played very well in the Western qualifier, where she captured third place. She started the State match well, but came a “little unglued” on the back nine.

“She struggled on two of her last three holes to finish 15th. She was expecting more, but that’s how golf works. Some days, you are on. Some days, you’re a little off,” Coach Dutton said. “As a freshman, this experience bodes well for her as she definitely has Top 5 talent when she can put it all together in a round.”

Coach Dutton feels Big Van needs to improve her short game, especially putting, to make the jump.

Little Van: A junior, Little Van was a tournament “dark horse” in Coach Dutton’s eyes.

“She struggled a little bit in the qualifier where she finished 12th, which I knew would get her a very comfortable pairing come States,” Coach Dutton said.

Little Van started the State match with a birdie on the first hole. She drove the ball straight down the middle of the fairway, and then hit her approach shot within two feet of the hole, tapping in for a birdie.

“Her face lit right up as she walked off and signaled to me, ‘I got a 3!’” Coach Dutton said.

Little Van got into some trouble on the next hole, but would answer with pars over the next three holes.

“She was very relaxed at that point. She drove the ball and hit her irons very sharp most of the afternoon,” Coach Dutton said. “Her putting was a little off, but she came in with a 93.”

Finishing sixth, Little Van qualified for the New England State Championships to be held in June 2012.

“She’s not quite as long as her sister, but she has the skills and demeanor to compete at a high level,” the coach said. “She was so excited and beaming all over after the round knowing she put in a great round of golf.”

For all three FA golfers, they had reached their coach’s goals — qualify for States and finish in the Top 20.

“That was awesome and it will give them something to work hard for next year,” Coach Dutton added. “All three are great individuals and great ladies to work with. The time they put in has been tremendous.”

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