A home-course advantage is significant in high school golf. Then again, so is what the Mattituck boys team did in the recently concluded season.
Because the Tuckers’ home course, North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, wasn’t available to them this past season, Mattituck was a team without a home. The Tuckers held practices at three courses — Laurel Links, The Vineyards Golf Club in Riverhead and the par-3 course at Cedars Golf Club in Cutchogue. All six of their Suffolk County League VII matches were on the road, and they won them all for their sixth consecutive league championship.
If an asterisk is to be attached to this latest Mattituck title since it was achieved during a global pandemic, perhaps a second asterisk should be added to note that the Tuckers did it all on the road.
“It’s definitely something to remember with all this COVID and no home course,” said junior Matt Seifert, the top player in the league with a 39.0 nine-hole average.
With a home course comes familiarity and a degree of comfort. Players know the trouble spots on their home course. They know how the greens play and are well aware of the pin placements.
Paul Ellwood, Mattituck’s coach since 2011, believes his team has lost only twice at North Fork Country Club in that time.
Mattituck didn’t have that home advantage this past season, though. If that wasn’t enough, the Tuckers had only two seniors on the roster and four junior high school players among their top eight.
No matter. They took care of business. The one-sided road wins quickly piled up: 9-0 over Shelter Island; 9-0 over Greenport/Southold; 8-1 over Hampton Bays; 8-1 over Eastport-South Manor; 8-1 over Shelter Island; 9-0 over Greenport/Southold.
“We had a totally new team this year with four junior high kids in the lineup, and that they experienced winning this young, it’s just going to bode well for us going forward,” Ellwood said. “Not many teams get to rebuild and get a championship at the same time.”
Eighth-grader Andrew McKenzie had the second-lowest average on the team: 41.8. He was followed by junior Evan McCaffrey (44.6), senior Connor Fox (44.8), seventh-grader Jack Talbot (46.0) and senior Dylan Kaputska (48.5). Eighth-grader Rocco Horton and seventh-grader Ben Voegal also won varsity matches.
The season concluded Monday with the county individual championships at the par-72 Smithtown Landing Golf Course. None of the Tuckers made the 18-hole 86 cut to reach the second and final day, McKenzie coming the closest with an 87.
Over the course of this six-year string of league titles, Mattituck built a 59-3 record in league matches and went undefeated in three of those seasons.
“It’s been a great run for us,” said Seifert, who made all-league along with McKenzie, McCaffrey and Fox. “It’s definitely something to take pride in.”
Among the team’s six wins this year was Ellwood’s 100th career win. He has a 104-8-1 record.
Seifert went 5-1, his single loss coming by one stroke. He has a 41-2 record over four seasons.
“The numbers don’t lie,” Ellwood said of Seifert. “He was the best player in the league throughout the season, and he had the best average playing on everybody else’s course © I think that’s all you need to know. He’s hands down the best.”
Seifert agreed with Ellwood’s assessment that he welcomes pressure on the links. “I think iron sharpens iron, when you kind of think of it that way,” Seifert said. “You get better when you’re playing better people.”
Another season. Another Mattituck championship. That’s good news for the Tuckers, but it also sounds like old news.
“Sometimes I feel like our success gets in our own way,” Ellwood said. “The only time we make news is if we lose. You know how some teams get that. They make headlines when they lose, and I feel like that’s where we are. Everyone takes for granted that we’re going to go out and win.”
Don’t expect that to change any time soon.