Jack Strippoli had never played on the Hopewell Valley Golf & Country Club course before Monday’s 84th NJSIAA boys golf group championships. That did not matter as the Verona High School junior shot a 75 on the day, narrowly beating Newton’s Tyler Wilson by one stroke to win the Group 1 individual state championship.
Strippoli earned his way into Monday’s round by firing a 72 on May 14 at the sectional championships at Rockleigh Country Club. He led the VHS boys golf team to the North 2, Group 1 title that day as well.
While VHS has won conference championships in golf in 1942, 1980 and 1981, and sectional championships in 1942, 1980 and 1999, Strippoli is the first Verona golfer to ever win an individual state championship. “It feels great to be the first,” Strippoli said. I didn’t know it at first, but I am happy to be a part of history”.
Strippoli had a rough start to the championship round, after five holes he was 7 over par which is a challenging deficit to overcome but with 13 holes left to play, he knew he still had a chance at the title.
“I refocused and birdied the next hole,” Strippoli said. “I got it back to 1 over par at one point, and I knew I was right back in the tournament. If it weren’t for that comeback, I would not even be in the mix.”
Head golf coach Eric McElroy believes Strippoli’s championship will help promote the VHS golf program, “I think it created a good buzz in the building. There were a lot of students and faculty talking about it. And when people talk about your program it helps.” This year’s team finished with a 10-4 record.
Strippoli has been on the golf team since his freshman year and has been playing the sport for 11 years. To stay at the top of his game, he says “I practice every day for hours whenever I have time.” Strippoli, who has caught the attention of some college golf teams, will be participating in New Jersey PGA and American Junior Golf Association tournaments this summer.
Coach Mac attributes Strippoli’s success to his ability put the same amount of focus on every shot. “He prepares and executes every stroke or swing to be the last on every hole. He is never satisfied and has tremendous work ethic.”