Since many of the golf teams on the South Fork use the area’s heralded private courses, it gave each a distinct home-course advantage over their opponents.
But when the coronavirus pandemic pushed back the boys fall season to early spring, those private clubs remained closed for the season, thus erasing that advantage and creating what should be an even more competitive boys golf season than usual.
East Hampton (South Fork Golf Club), Pierson (Noyac Golf Club), Southampton (Southampton Golf Club) and Westhampton Beach (Westhampton Country Club) will all be calling Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville home this season with their respective clubs closed.
League VIII representative and Center Moriches head coach Brad Howland came up with the plan to use Rock Hill, a public course, as the main hub for all league matches, and with really no other recourse, all of the other coaches agreed.
The first matches of the season last week were evidence of just how competitive the season will be.
East Hampton defeated Southampton, 6.5-2.5, and William Floyd, 9-0, on Friday, while Pierson defeated Westhampton Beach, 5-4. Only two strokes separated both East Hampton/Southampton (213-215) and Pierson/Westhampton Beach (232-234).
“This year is unlike any other,” East Hampton head coach Rich King said. “It hurts a team like us not being able to play at South Fork, but it also hurts the other teams being that we’re not playing at someplace like Southampton. I would anticipate it being a pretty close league, top to bottom.”
Southampton and Westhampton Beach shared the League VIII title in 2019, but the Mariners defeated the Hurricanes in what was the first-ever county team tournament and went on to be runner-ups to Ward Melville.
Being that they have had the most recent success and return many of their players, such as seniors Steven Kraszewski and Jack McDonnell and junior Jack Blackmore, the Mariners return as favorites for this year’s league title. Luke Sacconaghi, a junior, also returns, for Southampton, along with senior Robert Stior, sophomores Owen Wetter and Brian Emmons, and freshman Liam Blackmore, Jack’s younger brother.
But it was the up-and-coming East Hampton squad that got the better of Southampton last week, with sophomore Trevor Stachecki shooting a match-low 38. Freshman James Bradley shot a 41, followed by sophomore J.P. Amaden’s 42, and freshman Nico Horan-Puglia’s 44. The Bonackers are young this season, with only one senior, Aidan Cooper, in the team’s starting six.
Pierson was led in its victory last week by returning senior Tucker Schiavoni, who shot a match-low 39.
Whalers head coach Clint Schulman said he has been impressed thus far with freshman Nathan Dee, who shot back-to-back 45s last week, in a scrimmage and then against Westhampton Beach.
Pierson will have to make up for the loss of two-time state qualifier Henry Brooks, who has since graduated. But Schulman is confident in his young group, which includes freshman Harry Ambrose and juniors Brendan Burke and Reed Kelsey, the latter of whom missed last week’s opener and will return after spring break.
Westhampton Beach head coach Fred Musumeci, for the first time in his 11 years at the helm, is starting a seventh-grader, Zach Berger, at the team’s No. 1 starting position, signaling what is a rebuild for a Hurricane program that has seen a lot of success over the past couple of years. Mackenzie Kim and Cole Federico both qualified for the state tournament that was never played due to COVID-19 and have since graduated, along with a few other strong players, such as Coady Sumwalt.
Despite those losses, and three of his top six being middle schoolers in Berger and eighth-graders Owen Jessup and Charlie Beasley — son of Westhampton Beach golf great Bryan Beasley — Musumeci expects his team to be competitive. Returning ’Canes include Bennett Parly and senior Tyler Puch.
“We’re asking a lot out of Tyler. He’s been playing very well, but we’re putting a lot on his shoulders, as far as leadership and letting the young kids know how we do things,” Musumeci said.
“We’re going to have some growing pains because we are a young team but we have a lot of talent. As a team, I expect to be up and down with consistency, and we recognize that, but I’m excited about the future. We’re already fully reloaded — it’s just going to take some time for us. I predict days where we’ll put up some great scores and then days like Thursday where we don’t have some great scores. But that was our first match of the season, and that’s all with an inexperienced team. They just have to push to be better every day.”
Due to the ongoing pandemic, there won’t be any league postseason tournaments this season. Instead, league champions will be determined by win/loss records, and the top 25 individual golfers from each league will qualify for the county tournament based on season average.
Tight Losses For Baymen
Hampton Bays lost a close opening match to Eastport-South Manor by only one stroke, 244-245, on March 23, then lost another close match to Mattituck, 237-241, two days later.
Hampton Bays, and League VII, for that matter, does not face the same issues as many of the teams in League VIII, in terms of not having its home course available. The Baymen will continue to play at Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead, and head coach John Foster said with ESM and Mattituck both rebuilding — and Riverhead not having a team this season due to budget constraints — he foresees the competition to be much more even, as opposed to ESM, Mattituck or Riverhead running away with the league like in year’s past.
Hampton Bays will be led by senior David Catena and junior Aiden Kamp. Foster is excited about a pair of freshmen in Erik Sandstrom and David Poremba.