Featured Story
05/11/17 5:28pm
05/11/2017 5:28 PM

Going back to the days when she was an eighth-grader and even after that, Alex Kozakiewicz recalls lean years for the Riverhead High School girls golf team. “I’ve seen us lose every match and then I’ve seen us lose every match except one and then every match except two,” said the junior.

Now Kozakiewicz can say she has been a part of the first Riverhead golf team — boys or girls — to win a league championship.

Featured Story
03/23/17 7:00pm
03/23/2017 7:00 PM

Debbie Lutjen has been teaching golf in her physical education classes at Shoreham-Wading River High School for 22 years. The past five years she has pushed for the school to field a girls golf team.

Lutjen’s efforts have reached fruition. This year, for the first time, a Shoreham girls team is hitting the links.

04/07/15 10:24am
04/07/2015 10:24 AM

Steve Failla thought he was in a rough spot last year when he had only one player on his Riverhead High School girls golf team with any prior playing experience, an issue that was exacerbated by inclement early-season weather that limited the team’s practice time.

“I thought it couldn’t get worse,” he said. “I was wrong.” (more…)

06/02/13 10:30am
06/02/2013 10:30 AM

Corey Giannuzzi is not the sort to wear her emotions on her sleeve. Giannuzzi, a senior on the Riverhead girls golf team, has a knack for taking things in stride, keeping an even keel. That’s an invaluable quality for a golfer. It also makes her tough to read sometimes.

“I can’t tell after the end of a round whether she had a good round or a bad round,” said Riverhead coach Steve Failla.

But the smile on Giannuzzi’s face following the final round of the Section XI Championship on May 23 said it all.

“I could tell you she was really happy,” Failla said. “After the county championship, she was smiling for me to see teeth.”

And why not? The occasion was worthy of a smile. Giannuzzi is a trailblazer of sorts for Riverhead golf. She became the first player in the team’s six-year varsity history to qualify for the final round of the Section XI Championship.

Riverhead had been represented in the Suffolk County tournament before. Kaylee Wells, a junior, played in the first round the last couple of years, but never made it to the final round. Giannuzzi herself reached the first round of the tournament when she was an eighth-grader, but “that was just a disaster,” she said.

Considering that only 96 of the county’s 500 or so golfers qualify for the tournament, and only 30 of those make the cut for the second day of the two-day competition, it’s a considerable achievement.

Giannuzzi shot an 89 in the first round of 18 holes and a 100 in the second round. She finished 20th overall.

“I think that’s outstanding,” Failla said. “I think it’s a testament to setting a goal for yourself and working hard every day and staying focused on it.”

What was Giannuzzi’s take on it?

“I guess it was kind of cool,” she said. “I think it felt different this year because I actually had a chance of moving on to the next round.”

Giannuzzi’s temperament undoubtedly helps her. She said it doesn’t matter much to her if she takes a bad shot; she just shakes it off and moves on to the next shot.

“I’ve watched her evolve over the years,” Failla said. “She’s calm, cool and collected. She doesn’t get upset. She has faith that the next shot will make up for it. She’s got the mentality for golf that we should all have. She doesn’t get too low with the lows.”

Giannuzzi joined the team when she was in seventh grade, the same year that the varsity team started. She didn’t play one year as a freshman. Giannuzzi is one of the team’s four seniors. Catherine Brophy, Carina Oliva and Rebecca Merker are the others.

Riverhead has also been aided by the play of a first-year player, junior Olivia Serpico, and an eighth-grader, Aby Brophy, who is Catherine’s sister.

Riverhead finished with a 3-9 record, a team record for wins in a season. Failla said each match the Blue Waves played was decided by less than 10 strokes.

“We were competitive every day,” he said. “Every match we were right in it.”
Because Riverhead doesn’t have a junior varsity team or a middle school team, Failla said he is looking for middle school players for next season who are interested in playing a varsity sport.

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03/27/13 5:00pm
03/27/2013 5:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead junior Kaylee Wells returns as the No. 1 golfer for the Blue Waves.

There’s certainly nothing like experience.

For the first time during his three year-tenure as the Riverhead High School girls golf coach, Steve Failla has four seniors who he can rely on, which makes him quite optimistic entering the season.

“This is the first time we have real experience coming back,” he said. “They’re really committed to what they’re doing.”

Last year’s team won two matches, tying the school record for most wins in a season. The girls golf program is very young, entering only its fifth year this spring.

“We definitely expected to create another record,” Failla said. “I’ll tell you what, we have the potential to be in the mix for the playoffs. That would be a nice way to send our seniors off.”

The Blue Waves will begin their season by hosting Mount Sinai at Cherry Creek Golf Links on Tuesday.

While the seniors are the backbone of this team, the No. 1 golfer is a junior, Kaylee Wells, who has been the top seed for three consecutive seasons.

“She works very hard,” Failla said. “She’s strong off the tee. She always keeps it on the fairway. Very consistent.”

Consistency will be the key for the Blue Waves, and that’s where four seniors — Kathryn Brophy, Corey Giannuzzi, Rebecca Merker and Carina Oliva — come in.

Failla said that Brophy and Giannuzzi “have worked very hard this off-season. I have high expectations for them. They spent a lot of time on the driving range and chipping for their short game.”

Merker, who missed last season because of injury, has something to prove this spring.

“She was real upset last year because she couldn’t play,” Failla said. “She had to work hard to get back into playing shape, and I hope she goes on to help us this year.”

Another senior, Oliva, has shown much promise in the preseason.

“She has been very inconsistent in years past, kind of like the rest of us, but she’s shown more consistency this season,” said Failla.

Failla’s optimism doesn’t stop with the seniors. Three relative newcomers have given him a reason or two to smile.

Junior Oliva Serpico, a field hockey player, is playing golf for the first time this spring.

“She never saw a golf club until three months ago,” Failla said. “She’s going to make a push to start this year. She takes that competitive fire she demonstrates on the field hockey field and brings it to her golf game. She’s motivated.”

Eighth grader Abygale Brophy, the younger sister of Kathryn, also is making a push to start. “She has all the tools to become a great golfer,” Failla said. “She has to become more consistent. She has a bright future in the sport.”

Failla noted that the Brophy’s father “is a very good golfer. So they’re getting outstanding coaching at home as well.”

Junior Jill Zaremba, who is playing golf in her second year, “already has improved greatly,” he said.

Another junior, Karyn Torre, is expected to miss the season due to injuries she sustained in a recent ski accident.