At this point, it’s like an old movie that one has seen a dozen times or more, with one notable exception: The final outcome remains in doubt.
The Mattituck and Eastport/South Manor high school boys golf teams have been ruling Suffolk County League VII for a long time now. Mattituck’s coach, Paul Ellwood, believes one of the two teams has won the league championship for the past 15 years “and it could be longer.”
It truly is an amazing rivalry — a friendly rivalry, but a competitive one at the same time.
Ellwood believes this season’s league title chase will be a two-horse race involving the familiar foes.
Eastport/South Manor edged the Tuckers twice last season by one stroke to finish with a perfect 12-0 record. They were the only losses the Tuckers (10-2) suffered during the season. The year before the teams shared the league crown.
“It’s never boring, that’s for sure,” Ellwood said. “You see something you have never seen before. It usually comes down to the last shot of the match.”
This year the matchup looks intriguing. The Sharks are led by Kyle Tillinghast, one of the best players in the county, and Joey Busiello. The Tuckers, who won the league tournament, counter by returning their top seven players.
“They definitely have two good guys at the top, but hopefully we can be one stroke better than them this year,” said Ellwood.
Jon Dwyer (pictured above), who posted a 9-3 record, had the Tuckers’ lowest nine-hole average: 39.30. He twice fired season-low scores of 35. Fellow senior Andrew Stakey was second on the team with a 39.76.
Stakey and Dwyer are opposites in their playing styles. While Stakey puts a lot of thought into each of his shots and is consistent in finding the fairway, Dwyer is known for sending shots off to the side and then making difficult shots to save par.
“I think Andrew and Jon will be more consistent at the top and close to par most days,” said Ellwood.
Both players were all-league, as was junior Alex Burns. How the rest of the team performs will go a long way toward determining whether the Tuckers can dethrone the Sharks. In the mix are: junior Brendan Kent, junior Ryan McCaffrey, junior Matt Mauceri, junior Ryan Shuford, senior Greg Sheryl, junior Tyler Seifert and junior Joey Lisowy. Seifert and Lisowy are the only newcomers to the team.
The dates to keep in mind are Sept. 24, when the teams will play at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, and Oct. 14, when the rematch is scheduled for Hampton Hills Golf & Country Club in Westhampton Beach.
As Ellwood sees it, the scheduling really doesn’t matter. He said, “Whenever we play them, we know the league championship is going to be on the line.”
The golfers at the top of the lineup usually bring the lowest scores back with them into the clubhouse, but it is the Nos. 5 and 6 golfers who can really make a difference between winning and losing.
Greenport/Southold (7-5) lost five seniors and three of its top six players to graduation in Tom Messana, Alex Poliwoda and Liam Walker. That’s a big chunk of experience.
“I think the team has to kind of find its identity,” said Dave Fujita, who is in his 11th year in the program and ninth as the varsity coach. “By losing five seniors, it’s a completely different team.”
Fighting it out for the first four places are juniors Bobby Van Mater and Jack Webster and seniors Greg Gehring and Brendan Walker, Van Mater missed last quarter of the 2014 season with a hip injury. Webster reached the county qualifying tournament in May. Walker is coming back after taking a year off for his fourth year as a varsity golfer.
But the big question is: Who will be the other two scorers for the Clippers? Four players are in contention: sophomore Matt Tuthill, junior Charlie Poliwoda, freshman Xavier Kahn and sophomore Charlie Campbell.
“The depth of a team usually defines the successful programs,” Fujita said. “We’ll see. It’s important that my number one or two can learn how to break 40. If they can play close to par golf, we can possibly surprise some people.”
Fujita is happy with a rise in junior varsity numbers. The junior varsity team’s new coach, Jeff Ellis. has 15 players.
“For me the wins and losses isn’t really the success of the program,” Fujita said, “it’s getting young people involved in a sport that they can play the rest of their lives.”
Photo Caption: Mattituck golfer Jon Dwyer. (Credit: Garret Meade)