Panthers win second match of the season
Port Byron's Andy Leary hits a bunker shot on the third hole of Monday's match against Manlius Pebble Hill at Cranebrook Golf Course. Jill Connor / The Citizen

The weather can be more of a problem than the opponent during central New York golf matches in April.

At this point last year, the Port Byron boys golf team was still about two weeks away from playing its first match. This season, it's a much different story.

Monday afternoon the Panthers completed its third match, improving to 2-1 on the season after toppling Manlius Pebble Hill 242-250 at Cranebrook Golf Course.

Port Byron has already played three matches and with clear skies in the forecast toward the end of the week (at Pulaski Thursday; home against Weedsport Friday), the Panthers should have no problems completing five matches before April vacation. All the experience prior to spring break has head coach Steve Leary excited about the second half.

Leary said since his team has taken part in every scheduled match thus far, it allows for his team to tinker with their game in practice. Last year, having not played a single match before the April break, the Panthers were forced to play more than a week straight of golf matches, resulting in 12 of 15 days clogged with competition.

“If you play Monday you can fix (what was going wrong) on Tuesday,” Leary said.

Those practices in between matches can be vital to the success of the Panthers this season. Although it boasts a strong front end anchoring consistent scores, Port Byron welcomes five newcomers eager to impress in the fourth and fifth spots. Playing early allows the new faces to adjust to the competition and be able to fine tune their skills if things aren't going well.

Taking some pressure off the new faces is the strong returning golfers, led by Andy Leary. After his second match of the season, the sophomore has already qualified for the individual Section III tournament, having posted a 36 followed up by a 40. He was the medalist again against Manlius Pebble Hill, shooting a 41 and staying on line with his goal to average under 40 for the season.

Backing Leary up is a young but experienced bunch. Josh Malenick, a sophomore, is coming off a first-team all-league season. He struggled against MPH, posting a 50, but that is when a much-talked-about off days help. Dan O'Hara, an honorable mention all-league selection last year, has picked up his game consistently, shooting 43 and 44 the last two weeks. Rounding out the returnees, freshman Coty Abraham has also improved, cutting his most recent 50 to a 45 on Monday.

Rounding out the scoring for the Panthers, Ben Tarby shot a 62.

“The players in the front are definitely important,” Leary said. “If they put in a good round it takes the pressure of the kids in the back.”