Last year coach Paul Ellwood described his Mattituck High School boys golf team as being “super young.”
Well, the Tuckers grew up awfully quickly.
With only two returning players from the previous year and no seniors, Mattituck could have expected some bumps in the road. “I figured we’d have some hiccups along the way,” said Ellwood.
What happened was Mattituck not only went 12-0, winning a third straight League VII championship, but it took the league tournament for a fourth consecutive year. The Tuckers went 47-4 over the last four years.
What’s more, the team is back in its entirety for a run at some more titles in 2018.
“This year we’re very experienced all of a sudden,” said Ellwood, who takes a 79-7-1 record into his eighth season.
At the top of the lineup is the lean figure of Matt Sledjeski, an All-County senior.
“Matt learned his game on Cedars’ par-3 course [in Cutchogue], so he learned how to use wedges and putts,” Ellwood said. “Even when he’s not hitting fairways, he’s able to put up a competitive score. And then, if he’s on, he’s really dangerous. He can go under par.”
Senior Ryan Seifert, junior Chris Talbot and freshman Matt Seifert (Ryan’s brother) are All-League players competing for the Nos. 2-4 positions in the lineup.
Also in the stiff competition for positions are junior Parker Sheppard, freshman Evan McCaffrey, sophomore Connor Fox and senior Chris Siejka.
“They look really good,” Ellwood said. “My older guys, you can tell they’ve been playing … They’ve been playing all spring and summer and it shows.”
This year teams will play playoff matches to determine an overall county champion.
As for the League VII race, Ellwood isn’t taking anything for granted.
“We know we have tough matches with Riverhead and Eastport-South Manor,” he said. “They both gave us tough matches toward the end of last season, so we’re not crowning ourselves champions just yet.”
Greenport/Southold’s season-opening match is today against Shelter Island at Island’s End Golf & Country Club in Greenport. Just three days ago, new coach Jeff Ellis could name only one varsity player, senior Tyler DeFriese.
“It’s kind of a rebuild after that,” said Ellis.
Ellis, who had coached the junior varsity team the last four years, takes over from Dave Fujita. Fujita, who had a 63-69 record in his 11 years as coach, said he stepped down so he could watch his daughter play soccer.
Greenport (2-10) has 13 candidates for the varsity and JV teams (three seniors and no juniors among them), said Ellis, who noted that the team lost two practice days because of heat alerts.
Because of that, things remained to be ironed out in the days leading up to the season opener.
DeFriese was one of Greenport’s top players last year.
“He’s actually a very good golfer,” Ellis said. “He’s got a very nice swing. He cares about the game and he works on it on his own. He can hit the ball. He plays pretty well. It’s not first day of practice was the first time he picked up his club in a while. He’s been working on his game all summer.”
Ellis said he would love to see the rest of the Porters take to golf the way DeFriese has.
“If anyone has ever played, they know it’s not the easiest sport,” Ellis said. “If these kids can get out and play more and more, that’s going to make the program better.”
Photo caption: All-County senior Matt Sledjeski leads a defending League VII champion Mattituck team that returns all of its players. (Credit: Bob Liepa, file)