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Boys Golf: Sophomores lead Mattituck to 5-1 start

As Paul Ellwood looks out on the golf course at the current Mattituck varsity team, he can see a lot of golfers he’ll get to know well over the next few years.

The Tuckers, winners of seven straight league titles, feature zero upperclassmen. No seniors. No juniors.

With a largely new group this year, winning an eighth straight league title won’t be an easy task, but the Tuckers have so far proven they’re more than capable of hitting quality scores. The Tuckers swept a pair of matches Wednesday against Hampton Bays and Greenport/Southold to improve to 5-1. They won 6-3 against Eastport-South Manor last Thursday at Pine Hills Golf Course in Manorville.

“In the past we didn’t rebuild, we just reloaded,” Ellwood said. “I always had kids coming right up to fill in the empty spots. We’re young, but we’re going to be fine.”

The Tuckers return a trio of sophomores at the top of the lineup, led by Andrew McKenzie, who’s held the top spot, and Ben Vogel in the No. 2. Rocco Horton has also been at the top of the rotation. All three are returning golfers with varsity experience.

The Tuckers also benefited from a transfer as sophomore Shane Psaltis joined the district from Riverhead. 

Mattituck has had a deep tradition in golf in recent years and with that can come some pressure. Ellwood said he didn’t want the players focusing on a league title at the start of the season, but simply learning the game and improving each week. Still, the players knew all about the current streak of titles. (Last year’s team was a co-league champion with Riverhead).

“They were a little worried that they were going to let me down or let the program down,” Ellwood said. “I said, hey guys, we won seven in a row. It’s not going to last forever. And we don’t have a junior or senior. We’re going to be in the picture this year and we’ll be definitely be there the next two years.”

Ellwood has plenty of youth, including seventh-grader Sam Quartararo. Ellwood, who’s a physical education teacher at the elementary level, said the club pro at North Fork Country Club in Cutchogue — the Tuckers’ home course — had reached out about Quartararo. He also heard some of the players who had gotten to see him play and told him he looked ready for varsity.

“Andrew’s been great … helping him along, being a good mentor and showing great leadership,” Ellwood said. “That’s one of the great things with golf. Our older guys help the younger guys and teach them the way we do things.”

Mattituck’s lone loss so far came against Riverhead, a deep team that appears the favorite for the league title this year. The Tuckers’ top golfers will also set their sights on the individual county tournament, which will feature fewer players this year than in the past. Ellwood said that will add more urgency to the conference tournament, since earning a bid to the county tournament won’t be as easy.

“It’s like a round of a playoff,” he said.

Matches come early and often in boys golf and the regular season will wrap up by Oct. 6 for Mattituck. The Tuckers play Riverhead again Sept. 29.