What has the potential to be a breakthrough season for Howard's golf teams got started off on the right foot Thursday afternoon.
Competing against Centennial at Willow Springs, the Lions boys and girls swept their matches. Howard's Steven Park (match-high 24 points) led the way to a 77-73 victory for the boys, while freshman Harper Lurie fired 16 points to lead the Lion girls to a 28-25 win.
"It feels really good right now," Howard coach Josh McGoun said. "I think as a team coming in we had kind of a cool confidence, in that we've had some good practices, competitive tryouts and were ready to see what we could do against Centennial, one of the county's perennial top teams, in a match.
"I was extremely pleased with how we stayed poised and took that first step."
Park was the pace setter, playing steady and consistent golf from the very beginning. The senior finished with six pars and three bogeys.
"On a course like this, with a lot of hazards and crater bunkers, you have to be accurate. I did a pretty good job of avoiding the trouble," Park said.
Park also did a good job of scrambling around the greens. His par from over the green on the par 3 ninth was particularly clutch to helping the Lions maintain their cushion down the stretch.
"My chipping helped a lot. If I hit something wrong or a little off, I was able to stick it close and save par," Park said. "A lot of easy up-and-downs today."
Park also had help. His playing partner in the first group, Greg Cherry, chipped in with 22 points of his own. His five pars went a long way to giving Howard an eight-point victory over Centennial's top two of Matt McShane (21 points) and Mike Humphrey (17).
"For them to get out ahead early, establish a lead on their top two, I think it helped them keep everything in perspective and not do anything crazy," McGoun said "Even when they did face some adversity, they stayed resilient."
Centennial did have some highlights from its top two golfers, with McShane stringing together four pars to close his round and Hunphrey making a big birdie on the eighth hole.
The Eagles also got a career-high 20 points from Robert Hunter in the second group. Hunter, who made three pars, and his teammate Daniel Sterenberg (15 points) combined to win their foursome by four shots.
But ultimately, Howard was just a little too much. Sean Crawford (16 points) and Max Balter (15) rounded out the team's scoring for the four-point victory.
"This is a great push start for us as a team and hopefully this is a sign that we're going to have a really good season," Park said. "The nice thing is I think there's still room for improvement. We played good today, but I guarantee we will be up in the 80s soon.
"That's the magic number we're aiming for right now."
Centennial, meanwhile, will be trying to regroup.
"We've got a lot of golf left to play the rest of the year so we have to look forward," McShane said. "I think reality check is a good way to put it. We've got to come back, keep practicing hard and not take anything for granted."
The girls match was nip and tuck the entire way as well, with things not being decided until the final hole.
Having Lurie setting the tone up front certainly helped Howard's cause. In her first high school match, she kick-started her round with a tap-in birdie on the par 4 fourth hole.
"I was kind of nervous starting out, but my coaches and my teammates have really helped me in practices and everything," Lurie said. "I think also getting that birdie helped. It was exciting and I relaxed after that."