So much for this being the year of the outsider.
If there was a year in which an outsider was to wrench the Suffolk County League VII boys golf championship from the hands of Mattituck and Eastport-South Manor, which had dominated the league for years, it was this year. Before the season teed off, Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood proclaimed the race for the league title “wide open.”
That was before Mattituck, which had finished in a first-place tie with Eastport the last two years, went on to run away with the regular-season crown, going a perfect 12-0. If that wasn’t enough, the Tuckers claimed their fourth straight League VII Tournament title Tuesday at Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville.
Entering the season, the odds looked stacked against Mattituck retaining its titles. The Tuckers, after all, returned only two players from last year’s squad, Matt Sledjeski and Chris Talbot. What’s more, there isn’t a single senior on the roster.
“We probably had the least experienced team in the league going into the matches,” Ellwood said. “I thought we’d at least have a hiccup on the road.”
Mattituck rolled, and continued its fine form Tuesday at Rock Hill’s par-71 course. Four of the top six spots were taken by Tuckers and Mattituck totaled 410 points. It was followed by Riverhead (424), Eastport (435), Hampton Bays (437), Bishop McGann-Mercy (439), Greenport/Southold (462) and Shelter Island (475).
Mattituck’s Ryan Seifert was second with a 79, Sledjeski was third with an 80 and teammates Talbot and Parker Sheppard were tied for fifth with 82s. Those four qualified — along with Mattituck’s Matt Seifert (20th with an 87) and Tyler Olsen (22nd with an 88) — for the Section XI Championships that will be held at Rock Hill on Monday.
Eastport’s Andrea Ternavasio, an exchange student from Italy, was first, shooting a 73.
“Most of the guys just didn’t have any blowup holes today,” Ellwood said. “They were steady. They didn’t make many mistakes and most of the guys shot where they were supposed to.”
Ellwood said not a drop of rain fell during play, but wind was a factor. “I thought the conditions were difficult,” he said, adding, “The wind was crazy.”
Mattituck, which has a 37-2 record (both losses coming to Eastport) over the last three years, has been aided by its depth this season.
“It’s been the same story over the years,” Ellwood said. “We just have depth. We put six guys out there and they all put the best score up for us. It takes the pressure off the guys, knowing that we have a deep lineup, so they know they don’t have to put up a low number every day.”
As it was, the team’s top seven players finished with competitive nine-hole averages: Sledjeski (38.3), Ryan Seifert (38.3), Talbot (40.7), Matt Seifert (41.0), Sheppard (41.8), Olsen (45.5) and Connor Fox (45.5).
The scary thought for the rest of League VII is Mattituck is still an up-and-coming team. Said Ellwood, “There’s still a lot of room for growth.”
Photo caption: Mattituck coach Paul Ellwood and his players won regular-season and League VII Tournament titles this year. The Tuckers are 37-2 over the past three years. (Credit: Bob Liepa)