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.”