Prep’s Pandelena, McLaughlin Looking Ahead to College Challenges

Their high school and junior tournament careers behind them, the standout golfing Nicks from St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Pandelena and McLaughlin, are preparing for what lies ahead as their college freshman seasons approach ever so slowly.

Only partially satisfied with their schoolboy careers, since they brought only one Division 1 state title (2010) to the Prep’s dynastic history, Pandelena and McLaughlin regret they didn’t do better collectively as arguably the  biggest and best 1-2 punch in Prep golf annals. That statement is to be taken figuratively and literally. At 6-6, 185 pounds (McLaughlin) and 6-4, 230 (Pandelena), they were imposing with their talent and their physical attributes.

They each won a State Division 1 individual title and each fared well on the junior golf circuits near and wide. Next up: Division 1 NCAA competition, Pandelena for Boston College, McLaughlin for the highly competitive Atlantic Coast Conference  and the University of Virginia.

McLaughlin, from Newcastle, New Hampshire, where he played out of Wentworth By-the-Sea (and Far Corner en route to two Massachusetts Golf Association Junior titles, 2011, 2009), is playing this week at the Jones Cup in Sea Island, Georgia, then won’t play for a month or so before spending a week practicing, also at Sea Island (where his grandfather lives).

Rcently turned 18 (September 15), he is gearing up to play next summer at the Massachusetts Open at Walpole and the Massachusetts Amateur at Tedesco. He is exempt for both events.

“I’m grateful I have so much to look forward to next season and when I go to college,” said McLaughlin, who knows he’ll have to step up his game to qualify for the Cavaliers’ fall schedule. “I expect to improve between now and next September and I realize I’ll have to if I want to play in any tournaments as a freshman.”

A second team All-AJGA player this past summer, a national honor, McLaughlin is proud of of the exceptional four-year run he and Pandelena and company enjoyed representing St. John’s. His primary goal between now and next September is “to make a few minor swing changes and get stronger and a little heavier. It’s not all about distance but filling out some more would serve me well by next fall.”

McLaughlin continues to work with his only teacher, Beverly native and Cape Cod-based Jane Frost, considered one of the best PGA instructors in the country, male or female.

Pandelena is currently preoccupied with the Prep hockey team as one of its top players, but is anxious to resume his golf career as soon as the Eagles’ state championship run (they lost in the Division 1 state final last March) is concluded.

“I love both sports,” says Pandelena, a resident of Atkinson, N.H., “and that’s one reason I chose Boston College, plus the great academics, the location and the coaches.”

Pandelena got his golf genes — at least some of them — from his dad, who shot around 90 when he was young adult. When Nick got exposed to the game when he was 10, he was hooked immediately and credits his rapid development to noted Merrimack Valley PGA instructor Marc Spencer, first when Marc was instructing at Garrison in Haverhill.

He was not serious about playing in college until he finished 10th at the Callaway World Junior in San Diego last summer. The week before he’d shot a 64 at a Challenge Cup junior event in Rhode Island. Nick was no longer a secret among Division 1 college coaches. Maryland, Duke and North Carolina expressed interest, but he opted for The Heights of Chestnut Hill, where he will most likely major in math or physics. McLaughlin? He’s undecided, though history is his favorite subject.

Considered a golfer with unlimited potential by his Prep coach, the legendary Larry O’Neill, Pandelena hits balls indoors at Atkinson Resort a few days a week right through hockey season. After that he plans to play more of a regional tournament schedule next season. He’ll hopefully be good enough to play for the Eagles’ NCAA powerhouse hockey program too.

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