Viking golfer McCracken shows growth in several different ways

By Redd E. Patrick:
   Junior Tony McCracken has grown as a member of the South Brunswick High School golf team — literally and figuratively.
   As a member of last year’s successful team, McCracken played the first half of the season at No. 6, then played sparingly the second half, filling in as an alternate.
   But a funny thing happened to McCracken in between his sophomore and junior years.
   He grew three inches.
   As his body grew, his average shrunk.
   At 6-foot-3 nowadays, McCracken has moved into the No. 3 spot on a 10-1-1 team, which includes Tom Poorten, Chris Ardolina, Paul Kauders and Marvin Bebawi.
   Shooting under 40 in five of his first eight matches, McCracken blistered Bunker Hill’s par 36 layout with a two-under par 34 in a victory over North Brunswick two weeks ago. McCracken would have shot 33, if not for missing a five-foot putt on the final hole.
   Determined to prove that wasn’t a fluke, McCracken went out and shot 33 less than 24 hours later in a victory over Colonia at Bunker Hill.
   "After shooting 34 and missing that last putt I was just determined to shoot 33 the next day," McCracken said. "I just had everything going those two days."
   In 11 matches this season, McCracken has recorded scores of 37, 39, 35, 40, 41, 39, 38, 40, 34, 33 and 41 for an average of 37.9, or 1.9 strokes over par. All but one match has been played away from Bunker Hill.
   The reasons for McCracken’s improvement has been two-fold.
   "I practice a lot over the summer, and my swing changed a lot because my body grew," McCracken said. "I work at the Springdale Country Club in Princeton and I work with a pro there who has helped me with my swing."
   "He’s definitely a big dude," Viking coach Mark Kraft said. "His body is now more in sync to his swing. He is definitely one of the reasons for our huge success. The last two years he has shown potential and now he is achieving that potential by using his ability in big matches."
   McCracken and the rest of the Vikings have not played a match since tying Hillsborough on Friday, Apr. 19. They were rained out all of last week, then again on Tuesday after getting in five holes against Monroe at the Forsgate Country Club.
   Yesterday the Vikings were scheduled to take on arch-rival St. Joseph’s of Metuchen at the Royce Brook Golf Course. St. Joseph’s is the only team to beat South Brunswick, so not only is the Red Division title of the Greater Middlesex Conference on the line, but the Vikings psyche as well. South Brunswick is also scheduled to play state private school power, Peddie, today (Thursday) in Hightstown.
   "We are pumped up for these matches," Poorten said. "The layoff shouldn’t bother us. We all shot very well in the Monroe match before it was postponed. I think we should get (St. Joe’s) this time."
   "We were shooting excellent against Monroe," Ardolina said. "That has got our confidence back."
   Added McCracken "These are big matches for us. We want to win the counties this year and we feel we have a good chance to do it. Beating St. Joe’s would give us confidence."