It’s a Race to the Top for League VIII Golf Teams

Pierson's Tucker Schiavoni working out of a trap at the Noyac Golf Club. Michael Heller photos

The collective greatness of South Fork golf courses has been well documented across the globe. The area boasts two of the most renowned golf clubs in the world in Shinnecock and National, along with Maidstone, Sebonack, East Hampton, Atlantic and The Bridge, exclusive clubs that were carved from ancient lands or into the contours of the Atlantic Ocean and Great Peconic Bay.

Among this pocket of greatness are a handful of less decorated clubs with stellar reputations of their own, including Southampton, Noyac, South Fork and the Westhampton Country Club, which will host a powerhouse high school golf match on Wednesday, September 24, between unbeaten rivals from Southampton and Westhampton Beach.

Golfers from these schools, along with East Hampton and Pierson, have been making names for themselves for decades. They compete each fall on the courses mentioned above, with matches, and even league titles, that often come down to a precious few strokes.

Pierson’s Henry Brooks hits off the tee at Noyac.

“It’s unbelievable the opportunity these guys have,” said Southampton coach Tim Schreck, whose 3-0 Mariners will take on the 4-0 Hurricanes on Wednesday. “Every year it seems to be the same four schools slugging it out. But when you go into the season you never know what you’re going to get.”

Pierson and East Hampton are rich on talent this year but light on experience, with rosters full of young players including some still in middle school. The Bonackers beat Pierson, 6-3, on the Whalers’ home course at Noyac on September 12 with a total team score of 241 to 242, meaning a single stroke decided the outcome of the match. Both teams have already lost to Westhampton and Southampton this season, but none of the matches were runaways.

“One thing I tried to stress this year is that we have to win on our home course to have a shot,” said Pierson coach Clint Schulman, whose team hosted Westhampton on Tuesday, September 24, after press time after losing, 7-2, to the Hurricanes earlier this year. “We weren’t too far off playing them at their course. It didn’t feel like we got blown out.”

Westhampton is led by its “big three” of Mackenzie Kim, Cole Federico and Cody Sumwalt, while Southampton is more complete from top-to-bottom, with four players — Jack Blackmore, Daniel Silverberg, Jack McDonnell and Steve Kraszewski — averaging nine-hole scores under 45 so far this season. And behind both schools’ heavy hitters is a bevy of young talent waiting in the wings.

“Our league is so difficult,” said Westhampton coach Fred Musumeci, whose team shot a season-best combined score of 204 in a 7-2 win over Center Moriches at Rock Hill on September 18.  “You look at East Hampton, they lost a lot of seniors and they’re young, but they have a lot of talent. We can’t take any teams for granted.”

Pierson cruised past League VIII’s two other teams, Center Moriches and William Floyd, last week, by scores of 9-0.  The Bonackers last Thursday knocked off Floyd 9-0 as well following two straight losses to Southampton and Westhampton Beach, the two teams that seem to have risen to the top at the halfway point of the season.

“Southampton is a very good team, but so is Westhampton,” East Hampton coach Rich King said. “We’re young, but talented. Beating Pierson at Noyac was a good win for us. We’ve been a little inconsistent, but that’s what you get with young players. Still, the kids are working hard and having fun.”

Pierson’s Henry Brooks, who reached the state tournament last season, has been playing well. He shot a 39 against Westhampton Beach, but Kim outdueled him with a 37. Tucker Schiavoni has played well for Pierson in the number two spot, while a young players like sophomores Reed Kelsey and Brendan Burke and eighth-graders Harry Ambrose and Nathan Dee have been gaining valuable experience at the varsity level.

“I think if we win one of these two against Westhampton or Southampton, we’re still in it,” said Schulman. “The other goal is to qualify as a team for counties, which I think is doable.”

“The East End has some strong golf programs, some of the strongest in the county,” said King, whose team so far this season has been led by freshmen Trevor Stachecki and J.P. Amaden and eighth-graders James Bradley and Nico Horan-Puglia. “We’re a year or two away from putting together a solid one-through-six lineup where we’ll be very tough to beat.

“These kids are very fortunate, and I feel fortunate to be able to coach them,” he added when asked about competing in League VIII. “We’re pretty lucky. It’s a golf heaven out here.”