Who said you can’t go home again?
Certainly not the Mattituck High School boys golf team.
Mattituck was a team without a home this past spring in a shortened season postponed from the fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its home course, North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue, didn’t open until the final week of that season, but it didn’t matter. Mattituck still finished 6-0 and won yet another league championship.
Those titles are adding up, so much so that coach Paul Ellwood lost count at one point. On the first practice before this season, he told his golfers, “Alright, we’re going for a six-peat.”
His players corrected him: “We already did that, Coach.”
This season the Tuckers enjoyed their return to North Fork Country Club and the considerable home-course advantage it afforded them. They not only swept all five of their home matches, but they finished with a 9-1 record to share the Suffolk County League VII title with Riverhead.
Make that seven straight league titles for Mattituck, 12 in the last 14 years and 17 since 1994. The Tuckers have a 71-4 record during that span, having gone unbeaten at North Fork Country Club. Since 2008, Mattituck has lost only two matches on its home course, said Ellwood, who is in his 11th year coaching the team.
“It’s definitely impressive,” Mattituck senior Evan McCaffrey said. “It means a lot because, you know, that’s something people don’t forget.”
(Well, usually not.)
Riverhead, which sat out this past spring season because of budget cutbacks, shared the league VII crown with Mattituck for the second time in three years. The 2019 title was Riverhead’s first ever. This season the teams defeated each other, 6-3, on their home courses, Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead on Sept. 21 and North Fork Country Club on Oct. 7. A tiebreaker was used to decide the match in Riverhead. Mattituck won the match on its course by 16 strokes.
“I knew well Riverhead didn’t have a team last [season], but we knew they were very good, just like us, and they got us once and we got them once,” said senior Matt Seifert, who has played for six league champion teams.
And what about that home-course advantage thing?
“Most of our lineup has been playing here for many years, you know,” McCaffrey said. “We know this like it’s our home.”
The way Riverhead coach Steve Failla put it about the Tuckers was like this, “They’re very good everywhere, but they’re extremely strong at home.”
The All-Conference Seifert (9-1), who seems to thrive when the pressure is on, led the team with a nine-hole average of 37.87, the best of his career.
“When there’s pressure, Matt plays better,” Ellwood said. “It gets his attention. He likes the competition, so you know, he’s a good guy at the top of your lineup because you know he’s gonna have his best. He’s not gonna not play well because he’s stressed, you know. Even if he has a bad day, he has a bad day, but it’s not because he let the pressure get to him.”
Next in the lineup were three All-League players — freshman Andrew McKenzie (7-2-1, 40.37), eighth-grader Jack Talbot (9-1, 40.62) and McCaffrey (9-1, 43.0). Two second-year varsity players, freshmen Ben Voegel (9-1, 44.37) and Rocco Horton (3-3, 51.2), rounded out the top six. Seniors Max Gepple and Ryan Bordsen are in their first year on the team.
“We had solid starters all throughout the lineup,” Seifert said. “They helped us get those matches, even when the top struggled sometimes. Our depth was able to keep us in it. That was big.”
“It’s still exciting, you know,” Seifert said of racking up another league title. “It’s still something we’re proud of every year. It’s not easy.”
The Tuckers are just making it look that way.
Asked what he likes best about his team, McCaffrey said: “I’d say our camaraderie. We’re all just one big family. The bus rides are always fun and entertaining. We’re all just having fun. Out on the course, we’re all smiling.”
Seven consecutive league titles. What’s not to smile about?