The high school boys golf season is a sprint. With the short, condensed schedule, players have to be ready to come out of the gate firing. Before they know it, the six-and-a-half-week season will be over.
“You can’t show up [to preseason practice] thinking this is spring training,” said Larry Eslin, who is in his ninth year as the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs coach. “You got to show up being ready to play from the start. Kids either show up with a game ready to play or they spend the majority of the season trying to find one.”
Having lost half of their team from last year, the Monarchs (2-13 in 2010) are trying to assess what they have, and that isn’t easy. The season also starts really soon. Despite the fact that the Monarchs didn’t get to step on their home course at the Olde Vine Country Club in Riverhead for practice until last Wednesday, they will play their season-opening match there against the Eastport/South Manor Sharks on Thursday — one day before McGann-Mercy’s seniors are to have their first official day of school.
And then it’s off to the races.
“The first week of school, you got three matches, bang,” said Eslin.
The Monarchs have a few players back from last year, but the rest of the roster has question marks.
“It’s hard to say with this group if they are ready,” Eslin said. “It’s way up in the air. Most of the team I don’t really have any feel for.”
It’s too early for that, but time isn’t a luxury any of the golf teams have now.
What the Monarchs do have are three veterans, most notably seniors Danny Hartmann and Catherine Brabazon. Hartmann, who has played for the Monarchs since he was in seventh grade, was the team’s top player last year with a nine-hole average of about 44. He was the team’s most valuable player. Brabazon, who was third or fourth in the lineup, posted a 9-6 record and received the coaches award.
In the team’s first practice, Hartmann shot a 3-over-par 37 on Olde Vine’s back nine.
“Judging from what I saw … Danny has stepped up,” Eslin said. “He drives the ball well. His short game has picked up, and that looks to be his strong point. His putting is solid.”
Brabazon may have picked up her game as well. She won a junior tournament this summer at Island’s End Golf and Country Club in Greenport.
“She’s a solid golfer,” Eslin said. “She’s a perfectionist. It’s a matter of controlling her emotions when things don’t go perfectly.”
Anthony Mercuri, a junior, is the other returning player. Among the newcomers are sophomores Devin Stark and Sean Sinski.
The Monarchs are dealing with a lot of inexperience, and the clock isn’t their friend right now. Remember, the season goes fast.
“Blink and it’s over,” Eslin said. “and you’re going to wonder: Where did it all go?”
Riverhead Coach Wade “Rocky” Davey is at even more of a disadvantage than his colleague at McGann-Mercy. The Blue Waves (6-6) have only one returning player, senior Brian Weinhardt.
Weinhardt played in the No. 2 or No. 3 spot last year and averaged about 43 for nine holes.
“When he’s going good, he’s really good,” Davey said. “When he’s not good to start, he’s erratic. He’s a very good golfer. He’s capable of shoorting a 36 and then some days it’s a 46. The key is this, if he can get consistent with his ability.”
The Blue Waves have had so little practice time at the Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead that Davey was unable to talk about the rest of the players, who are coming up from the junior varsity team.
“It will be a growing season to see who steps up,” Davey said. “The young kids are going to do what they’re going to do. I’ll get some surprises and I’ll get some disappointments.”