The bus ride home today for the Mattituck High School boys golf team was an awfully quiet one, quieter than any Paul Ellwood could remember in his four years as the team’s coach.
The Tuckers had a lot to think about — like how much of a difference a single stroke can make. In this case, it made the difference between being a league championship team and being a runner-up.
“The [team] score doesn’t always tell the story,” said Ellwood.
How right he is. The team score said that Eastport/South Manor defeated the Tuckers, 6-3, in the final regular-season match on Wednesday, bringing the Sharks the Suffolk County League VII championship. But this is where a single stroke made all the difference. Three team points are awarded to the side that holds the superior strokes from its top five players. The six individual matches were split, but the stroke score fell in Eastport/South Manor’s favor by the slightest margin, 216-217.
“Crazy things happen,” Ellwood said after the nine-hole match at Hampton Hills Golf Club in Westhampton. “It’s something else. We always have great matches with them.”
The Tuckers finished the season with a 10-2 record, both of their losses coming to their rivals from Eastport/South Manor (12-0). A win by the Tuckers on Wednesday would have meant that the two teams would share the league crown for the second year in a row. Their last two matches against each other have been decided by — you guessed it — one stroke.
That stroke may have been lost when Eastport/South Manor’s Joey Busiello, after hitting into the trees, salvaged a birdie with a 47-yard chip shot for a 3 on the first hole.
Ryan McCaffery led the Tuckers with a 41 on the par-35 course. Jon Dwyer shot a 42 for the Tuckers, who also received a 43 from Matt Mauceri, 46s from Alex Burns and Andrew Stakey, and a 47 from Brendan Kent.
But losing by one stroke is tough, really tough. “Every kid was blaming himself,” said Ellwood, who completed his fourth season with a 42-5-1 record.