Tonawanda News — In Devin Donohue's first season as a member of the North Tonawanda golf team, as a seventh grader in 2011, the Lumberjacks didn't win a single match.
Three years later, the Jacks turned in a 10-win season and Donohue became the first NT golfer in at least seven years to play at sectionals.
Donohue, only a sophomore, competed on May 20 at Diamond Hawk Golf Course in the 2013 Section VI boys qualifier tournament and held his own, finishing with an 88, 10 strokes back of Nolan Ditcher from Randolph who was the final qualifier for states.
Despite the solid performance, NT golf coach Paul Becigneul said Donohue is his own biggest critic, and the sophomore said his putting doomed him on Monday.
"Once we got past the first hole the nerves were kind of gone and I just tried to play my game," he said. "My putting is what really let me down, … I was doing well over the tee and in the fairways. I just couldn't putt to save my life, honestly."
Donohue has been playing golf ever since he can remember, picking up the sport from his father. He said he'd go out with his dad, even before he was good enough to play, just to be on the course. His determination to be the best is what has allowed him to become one of the most dominant golfers in the Niagara Frontier League.
Becigneul said the scary part about Donohue is that he still has two more years left to get better.
"He expects himself to play well every time he goes out there," Becigneul said. "He's harder on himself than I can even ever be. I told him to take sectionals as a learning experience because he's a 10th grader and he still has two more years to qualify for states. (With) his drive and competitiveness … I have no doubt he will qualify either next year or when he's a senior just because of his work ethic."
Donohue plays for the JV baseball team at NT, and the season ended just days before sectionals.
So he put down his baseball bat and picked up his golf clubs. He prepared for four straight days and, playing alongside the best golfers in Western New York, he finished 31 out of 56.
This summer, Donohue has identified his putting game as the area he will focus on the most. He said the other parts of his game have improved, even since the fall season ended.
"My driving, I don't know what happened over the winter but it really came on strong," he said. "I've just been driving beautifully, I don't really know what I'm doing different. I got new irons and they've made a world of difference. I'm killing them and hitting them straight which is the important part."
Becigneul said that makes Donohue so special and effective is his ability to adapt and his patience and calm demeanor out on the course. Competing in the No. 1 spot for the team is an accomplishment in itself, Becigneul said, and that means Donohue was playing against the teams' No. 1 golfer.
Donohue was never intimidated and always looked at playing the top competition as just another challenge.
"It can be intimidating, especially for a 10th grader, but I really saw him mature and embrace that role," Becigneul said. "Instead of being afraid of that or intimidated, he embraced and welcomed it. That was great and was a real turning point for him, not only as a golfer but as person."
Instead of playing a Winter sports next season, Donohue is going to commit to a more regimented weight program so he can increase muscle and insurance for sectionals next season. Becigneul said once he is able to combine his maturity and game management with size and strength, he will be a force that will be tough to handle for opposing teams.
"I think I matured a lot," Donohue said. "I accepted the top role but it was a lot of pressure to go out and play well every day. I like playing No. 1 because I liked being with those type of guys. I like being the leader of the team — it was a privilege."Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @TonaNewsSports.