Coming off a magical season last year, the Mattituck High School boys golf team has taken quite a hit. The Tuckers graduated three all-league players, the entire top half of their lineup, and they don’t have a single senior in their numbers as they swing into the 2014 season.
“We are in the rebuilding stage, if you will, not a lot of proven areas,” said Paul Ellwood, who takes a 32-3-1 record into his fourth year as the team’s coach. “We’re a little raw talent-wise, but there is something to work with there.”
It looks like it will not be easy for the Tuckers to duplicate the wonderful success they had last season. They went 10-1-1, shared the Suffolk County League VII championship with Eastport/South Manor, and then won the League VII Tournament.
“Any time you win a league championship, you can say it’s a good year,” said Ellwood. He said it “was a great season because the team peaked at the end.”
The Tuckers, who have won four league titles in the past five years, still have senior Chris Mauceri (44.40 nine-hole average last year), his brother, sophomore Matt Mauceri (46.33), and junior Jon Dwyer (46.78). All three played in the No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 slots last year.
Dwyer and Matt Mauceri qualified for last year’s county tournament. Chris Mauceri missed the first half of the season with a broken wrist.
Andrew Stakey, a junior who alternated between the varsity and junior varsity teams last year, will likely play a more prominent role.
Three sophomores are new to the team: Alex Burns, Ryan McCaffrey and Brendan Kent.
“All the kids have a good golf background,” Ellwood said. “They play a lot of golf and all of them in the summer work at golf courses.”
Ellwood, whose team will play its home matches at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, said the Tuckers’ strength will be in the bottom of the order.
“Last year I felt we had three number ones and this year I feel like we have four number threes,” he said. “Every point counts the same so it doesn’t really matter.”
The Tuckers have produced impressive results in recent years. Their record over the past six years is 66-7-1. That’s a tough pace to continue.
Ellwood said the team’s goal is to post a winning record and qualify for the county tournament as a team. As for the league title, well, “it’s not even close,” he said. “If ESM doesn’t win the league, it will be a colossal upset. They have everyone back.”
On the plus side for the young Tuckers, they will return six of seven players next year and have most of them together two years from now.
“It’s going to be more of a teaching and learning year,” Ellwood said. “You can live with that when you have a lot of young players.”
Dave Fujita, who is in his seventh year as the Greenport/Southold coach, has been in the business long enough to know how things work. Having some quality players at the top of the six-player lineup is nice, but it’s the players in the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 slots who can have a critical impact on a team’s win-loss record.
The Clippers (6-6) have an all-league senior, Tom Messana, the team captain, who should hold the No. 1 spot. Battling it out for No. 2 are senior Alex Poliwoda and sophomore Bobby Van Mater.
The next five places in the pecking order are up for grabs.
“There are a lot of unknowns going into this year and as always it’s the 4, 5, 6 players that will determine a lot of matches for us,” Fujita said, “and I don’t have a clear-cut 1 through 6, so I’m looking for guys to step up and show what they can do.”
Liam Walker, a senior, was part of the lineup last year.
Greg Gehring, a junior transfer from Bishop McGann-Mercy, joins the mix along with three players brought up from the junior varsity team — junior Jake DePaulis, senior Nick Van Mater (Bobby’s cousin) and sophomore Jack Webster.
Messana shot in the low 40s last year and appears poised for a strong season in his fourth year as a varsity player.
“Mechanically, he’s very strong from tee to green, and he has a better understanding of his swing than he has in years past,” Fujita said. “He’s swinging under control and his course management is very good.”
In a sport known for producing sportsmen and gentlemen, Fujita said Messana “embodies both of those characteristics.”
Fujita said that with a lot of potential on the junior varsity team, this is an exciting time for the program.
The Clippers play their home matches on the par-35 front nine at Island’s End Golf and Country Club in Greenport. Fujita said the team has been fortunate to enjoy the support of the club’s professional, Bill Fish.
Of course, once the Clippers hit the links for a match, it’s all in their hands.
“What I like about these guys is I think they’re going to work hard and they’re competitive and I think they’re going to work hard for one another,” Fujita said. “I’m not going to hit a single shot all year, so it’s up to them to do it on the golf course.”