Golf Notebook: Laurel Links receives rave reviews

Laurel Links Country Club has joined a special club.

With its hosting of the 115th Met Amateur Championship, Laurel Links joined about 70 clubs that have hosted the event, according to Brian Mahoney, executive director of the Metropolitan Golf Association.

The four-day event that concluded Sunday could be called the most prestigious amateur golf tournament to ever be played in the Town of Southold. It’s the second-oldest amateur golf tournament in the country, said Chris Gaffney, the MGA’s director of championships.

Club professional Steve Haggerty was thrilled to have Laurel Links hosting the championship. “The club is excited to have this event,” he said. “We have been aspiring to get to this point.”

Superintendent Bill Shufford said: “This course sets up perfectly for match play because of it’s design. It’s very demanding from tee to green.”

Players gave the course conditions and tournament organization a thumb’s up.

“Laurel Links, the staff, the people, it’s just been a phenomenal week,” tournament champion Matt Mattare told reporters. “The course was perfect. It was pristine … You couldn’t have asked for a better test of golf.”

Finalist Bradley Lankler said: “I love this course. How come I never heard of it?”

During the awards ceremony, club president Tim McManus said: “At Laurel Links we felt we had something special here and we were waiting for the world to discover us. This week I think they did.”

* Caddying for the champ

Matt Czujko, 15, is an incoming sophomore at Mattituck High School who plans to go out for the school’s golf team when preseason practice starts in a couple of weeks. He’s also a junior caddy at Laurel Links.

Czujko will have a lot to tell his schoolmates about how he spent the summer. For openers, he caddied for the Met Amateur champion, 31-year-old Matt Mattare.

“He just needed a caddy that wouldn’t make any mistakes and just said, ‘No penalties,’ ” said Czujko.

Mission accomplished. Czujko turned in a clean tournament as Mattare triumphed, 1-up, over Bradley Lankler in the 36-hole final match.

“I’m just in shock,” Czujko said afterward. “At the very end I was really nervous, but Matt, he was relaxed the whole time like nothing was really happening.”

Mattare said: “All the props to the caddy. Matt was great all week. I had a lot of fun with him. He’s a great kid … He’s exactly what you want in a caddy. He’s great company. He knows the game and we have a ton of fun.”

The experience will undoubtedly stick with Czujko for a long time. “It’s probably the best golf I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I wish I could play like that.”

* It began with over 500 players

Just making it to the Met Amateur Championship is a feat in itself. It’s as much an endurance test as anything else. Out of over 500 players, only 61 reached the championship. Thirty-six holes of stroke play last Thursday whittled down the field to 16 for match play, followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and the final.

Qualifying took place at six sites across the metropolitan area. To be eligible to enter qualifying, a player’s handicap index could not be greater than 5.0, according to Tim Hartin, communications and editorial associate for the MGA.

* The ‘home’-course advantage

Darin Goldstein played in the tournament under the umbrella of the Deepdale Golf Club of Manhasset, but that didn’t mean he didn’t enjoy a home-course advantage for the Met Amateur Championship. Goldstein is also a member of Laurel Links. He tied for fifth in stroke play with a 2-over-par 144 over 36 holes before being ousted by John Felitto, 5 and 3, in the round of 16.

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With Jay Dempsey

Photo caption: For the first time, Laurel Links Country Club hosted what has been called the second-oldest amateur golf tournament in the country. (Credit: Bob Liepa)