NORTH STONINGTON — What a difference a year made for the Wheeler High golf team.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 spring season, the Lions entered that campaign on shaky ground with just three players coming out for the team. Wheeler scrambled to form a co-op with Ledyard before the season was officially scrapped.
This past season, six freshmen showed up for workouts, joining two seniors and a sophomore on the roster, to allow Wheeler to regain its independent status. And one of the freshmen, Gavin Arruda, emerged as an ECC Division IV All-Star.
Arruda averaged in the low 40s in regular nine-hole play for the Lions, who were 5-7 on the season. He led all Wheeler scorers in the ECC tournament 18-hole event with a 91.
Wheeler coach Carl Weber has known Arruda since the sixth grade, having coached his older brother Nolan.
"He expressed an interest to be a competitive golfer back then," Weber said. "This was the first year he played competitive golf. He showed a love of the sport from day one and it showed in his scores. He has goals of averaging in the 30s."
Weber says Arruda's knowledge and course management helped him improve through the schedule.
"He understands the game very well," Weber said. "When he was on his game, his shots were consistent and he had a consistent ball flight."
Weber used Arruda in the No. 2 slot because he had a capable senior to play No. 1 in Sam Taylor, who averaged in the mid 40s during nine-hole play. Taylor, who shot a 95 in the ECC tournament, was named ECC Division IV honorable mention as well as scholar-athlete.
Keiran Boscoe, Wheeler's No. 3 player, made the ECC sportsmanship team.
With six freshmen returning next year, Wheeler golf looks to resume its place as a winning program.
"The six are all friends," Weber said. "They like to compete with each other and against each other to bring out the best in everyone. The future looks good."