Just Another Victory as Southern Regional Golfers’ High School Careers Wind Down

May 23, 2018
Photo by: David Biggy Chris D’Alessandro drives from the tee to start the fourth hole at Ocean Acres Country Club on May 15.

Seniors Chris D’Alessandro, Nick Campanelli and Caleb Rossi have spent many afternoons on the fairways and greens of Ocean Acres Country Club, but May 15 was their last in Southern golf attire.

“Throughout the day, I’ve thought about it, this being our last time playing at Ocean Acres together, at least for a while,” said D’Alessandro after he helped the Rams cruise to a 162-200 win over Toms River East. “It’s kind of sad, but we all know our best golf is ahead of us, and we have a lot of great memories to look back on as part of the Southern golf team.”

Before several consecutive days of rain wiped out the remainder of last week’s schedule – including the Shore Conference Class A South finale against Toms River North, now rescheduled for May 23 – the Rams had a beautiful, sunny day to work with as they won their 17th match of the season.

Campanelli didn’t shoot his best round, but a 42 behind Rossi’s 37 and D’Alessadro’s 39 was enough to keep the Rams comfortably ahead through most of the round. Peter Fabian, the only golfer among the starting crew slated to return next year, finished with a 44. The other senior on the squad, Ethan Leming, scored a 47.

“Every year, you graduate your seniors and it takes a couple of months before you realize they’re gone,” said coach Jeff Reilly. “But with Caleb, Nick and Chris leaving, it’s going to sting when we have our banquet. Without question, this has been the easiest group of seniors I’ve ever had to coach. And Ethan added a lot to it as well. He’s been phenomenal. This has been the most enjoyable season I’ve had, and it’s because of those guys.”

Of course, at times, things probably weren’t too enjoyable for Reilly’s top three players. Golf has a tendency to drive a person batty on occasion. But Rossi said it’s all water under the bridge at this juncture, as he and his friends start preparing for collegiate careers.

“We didn’t win everything we wanted this season, but it definitely has been the most enjoyable season we’ve had because of Reilly,” said Rossi, who’s on his way to St. Peter’s College. “He’s taught us a lot about life, how nothing’s ever easy and you just have to tough it out, live to fight another day and keep going. If you get knocked down seven times, get back up eight.”

Campanelli agreed that Reilly’s impact has gone way beyond the tee box and putting.

“I’ve learned more off the golf course than on the golf course,” said the University of Scranton-bound Campanelli. “It’s hard to teach three competitive guys who know a lot about the game, but Reilly has taught us more about our character, how to act, how to handle so many situations. He’s taught us how to keep looking forward and look back at the good things with a smile.”

And certainly, the three seniors have a lot of great things on which to look back –multiple Ocean County championships, playing in the Palmetto Classic in South Carolina a few times, and winning dozens of matches and losing less than a handful of times among them.

“That’s what I take with me, knowing that we’ve had a lot of success and a lot of great opportunities to play on some great golf courses,” said D’Alessandro, who will make his way to Arcadia University in the fall. “And with all that, I’ve made lifelong friends, and that’s been nice, knowing I can count on them.”

Rossi said he knows Chris and Nick just about as well as he knows himself.

“It’s been really great,” he said. “Being alongside these guys, for me, has really pushed me to get better, and at the same time we’ve just become best friends. We’ve spent a lot of time together the last few years, and I couldn’t have asked for better friends.”

Family is the word Campanelli used to describe the Rams around him the past four seasons.

“I love all these guys. I really do,” he said. “I never thought as a freshman that I’d develop such great friendships on the golf team. But Chris and Caleb are more than friends. They’re brothers to me. Everything we’ve experienced together has been awesome.”

As the team began to disperse following the match and Reilly was left by himself for a few moments, he couldn’t help but sing the praises of three players who had just led his team to another victory.

“These guys made my life as a coach so easy,” he said. “Everything they did was top-notch and with such a high level of dedication and commitment. It really has been a privilege and an honor to coach them. I’ve been blessed to have them as part of the Southern program.”

— David Biggy


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