10/28/14 9:17pm
10/28/2014 9:17 PM

When the announcement was made that the Riverhead High School boys golf team had taken third place in the League VII Tournament on Monday, the Blue Waves knew what that meant: They had qualified as a team for the Suffolk County tournament that will be played in May. The excited Blue Waves began exchanging high fives when their coach, Steve Failla, interceded. “I said, ‘Act like you’ve done it before,’ ” he recalled.

To that, the players responded, “Coach, we haven’t.”

Failla wasn’t sure if the Blue Waves had ever competed in the county tournament as a team before, but he knows what it means for his team. (more…)

09/03/14 9:23am
09/03/2014 9:23 AM

PREVIEW

Steve Failla has spent every fall since 1984 involved in football, in one way or another. This year, however, marks a break in that pattern, and it’s a reflection of his growing interest in golf.

“Over the last handful of years, golf has become a passion of mine,” he said.

Failla, 40, who has been the Riverhead High School girls golf coach for four years, has taken on the added title of the school’s boys golf coach, succeeding Wade Davey. (more…)

09/14/13 8:00pm
09/14/2013 8:00 PM

PREVIEW

The old good news-bad news thing comes into play when considering the Riverhead boys golf team.

For the bad news, the Blue Waves (6-6 last year) lost their top four golfers from last 2012, a tough gut punch, to be sure. But here is the good news: Riverhead’s Nos. 5 and 6 golfers from that team, juniors Cody Weiss and Joe Heart, are not only back, but they are better. Considerably better, said coach Wade “Rocky” Davey.

It didn’t take long during the team’s first practice for Davey to see just how much the two golfers had raised their game.

“I watched them through the first three or four holes, [and] I said, ‘They got not only got better, they got a lot better,’ ” Davey said. “These two are the most improved kids I’ve seen come through since I’ve been coaching.”

Both players not only worked on golf courses over the summer, but they worked on their game as well. “They both put in a lot of time,” Davey said. “They’ve come light years.”

Last year Weiss finished with a nine-hole average of around 46, and Heart was about two strokes behind him.

What will they shoot this year? Now that’s an exciting prospect for Davey to consider.

“The other side is let’s see what happens come match time,” said Davey, whose team will play its home matches on the par-36 front nine at Cherry Creek Golf Links, one of the longer courses in League VII.

He added: “With those two kids, it’s promising. I talked to the kids about the fact that if you have five kids who can hit 44 or less, you’re going to be in 90 percent of the matches.

“The best thing about them is looking at the future, let’s see what happens. I have pretty high expectations, especially for those two. If that pans out, it should be an interesting season.”

A 2-10 record, such as the one Bishop McGann-Mercy turned in last year, may not sound good, but coach Larry Eslin knows there can be a fine line between a bad record and a winning one. Further putting things in perspective, keep in mind that the Monarchs lost three matches by under five strokes.

That being the case, Eslin, who enters his 11th year coaching the team, knows full well how important it is for players to put bad shots behind them so that one bad shot doesn’t turn into several bad shots.

“That’s one thing to emphasize to JV players, every shot, their score counts,” he said. “You can’t dwell on your last mistake. That one moment of lost focus may cost you.”

Many of the Monarchs should know this by now. Eight of the team’s nine players are seniors.

Sean Sinski (42 average) and Jack Crowley (43) had the top two averages on last year’s team. Sinski finished 10th among league golfers in the county tournament. Devin Stark and Tom Brooksbank both shot around 45. Also breaking 50 were Mike Dorval and Claudio Sciarro.

Colin Cuccia, Tim Leonard and Greg Gehring, a sophomore who is the team’s only non-senior, have been brought up from the junior varsity team.

“I’m very happy with where they’re at, their level of playing going into the season,” said Eslin, whose team will play its home matches on the par-36 front nine at Olde Vine Golf Club in Riverhead. “Every one of these kids plays regularly. Several of them work at golf courses and play on a regular basis. They’re very serious about the game, and I think they’re taking their last year to heart. Anything can happen.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

09/07/11 10:31am
09/07/2011 10:31 AM

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.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Danny Hartmann was Bishop McGann-Mercy's most valuable player last year.

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.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Catherine Brabazon posted a 9-6 record for Bishop McGann-Mercy in 2010.

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.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

05/24/11 11:13pm
05/24/2011 11:13 PM

The buzz at the Suffolk County high school boys golf championships this week was how well a girl was doing.

The girl in question, Mattituck High School senior Marie Santacroce, undoubtedly surprised more than a few people with her play in the two-day tournament at Indian Island Country Club in Riverhead. Santacroce was not only among the 30 players who made the cut on Monday, but she finished on Tuesday in a tie for eighth place, falling two strokes shy of qualifying for the state tournament.

Now that’s not bad.

“I loved it. It was great competition,” Santacroce said. “I learned that I can beat anyone having a good short game.”

Because Mattituck doesn’t have a girls golf team, Santacroce found herself playing alongside and competing against boys when she joined the varsity squad three years ago. That was fine with her. She welcomed the competition, the longer distances she had to play, and said it helped her game, so much so that she will play for Flagler College (Fla.) next season.

“I like playing with the boys,” Santacroce said. “They play differently than the girls. They play more aggressively than the girls do.”

Competing in the county tournament for the third straight year, Santacroce made the cut for the first time by shooting an 81 on the par-72 course on Monday. She then did even better on Tuesday, with a 78 and a two-day total of 159, making her the lowest-scoring girl in the tournament.

“Marie had a fabulous day,” Mattituck coach Jim Underwood said. “This was easily the best she’s played for Mattituck, hands down.”

While boys may have had longer drives than Santacroce, she caught up with some of them with her accurate short game.

“I guess they underestimate me because I’m so much shorter than them off the tee, but I’m very consistent,” Santacroce said. “I’m straight up the middle. The short game saved me. When I’m confident on my short game, I can score very well.”

Santacroce said she was “dragging a little bit” on the back nine Tuesday when it got hot and muggy, but her father, John, gave her some chocolate and it re-energized her.

Zach Grossman of East Hampton (72 and 72) and Kyle Burke of Sayville (76 and 68) both posted two-day totals of 144. Grossman won it on the first playoff hole.

Two Shoreham-Wading River players, Sean Sanders and John Malandras, made the cut. Sanders recorded scores of 80 and 82 to finish in a tie for 11th place. Malandras had an 80 and a 93, finishing 17th.

A number of other local golfers competed on Monday, but failed to make the cut: Robbie Bray of Shoreham-Wading River (83), John Sorenson of Greenport/Southold (84), Richie Corazzini of Mattituck (85), Lee Balsano of Shoreham-Wading River (87), Tyler Crohan of Greenport/Southold (87), Kyle Clausen of Greenport/Southold (87), Will Fujita of Greenport/Southold (92), Brad Tyler of Mattituck (93), Chris Divito of Shoreham-Wading River (93), Luke Hokanson of Greenport/Southold (93), Dakota Trick of Bishop McGann-Mercy (96), David O’Day of Greenport/Southold (98), Winston Wilcenski of Greenport/Southold (113) and Catherine Brabazon of Bishop McGann-Mercy (125).

Mattituck golf is only part of Santacroce’s résumé. She is the Island’s End Golf and Country Club’s women’s champion and has played in national tournaments throughout the country. She recently won a junior tournament in New Jersey and will soon compete in a pro-am tournament.

Underwood said that if Santacroce played high school girls golf, she would be among the top five players in the county.

“It’s not like this was handed to her,” he said. “She’s worked so hard for it.”

For Santacroce, who aside from Connor Davis is the team’s only senior, to close out her high school career on such a positive note is encouraging. She said, “I’m happy with the way that I played and I’m happy with myself.”

bliepa@timesreview.com