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Boys Golf: Numbers shoot up in Riverhead (a good thing)

Steve Failla found himself in an unusual position at the start of the boys golf season. So many players had come out for the team, the Riverhead coach needed to hold tryouts to trim the roster down to a manageable number.

The Blue Waves also added a junior varsity team. To sort out the varsity, which features several returning players, the coach collected scores from over three days and analyzed them.

“It wasn’t an easy process,” Failla said. “We let some people who have a lot of potential to be great golfers go because you can only keep so many.”

The Blue Waves enter the season with hopes of returning to the team county championship later this fall. To do so would require a top-two finish in league or a top-three score at the league tournament. The Blue Waves posted a .500 record last year. They opened up this year with a win over Bishop McGann-Mercy last week and then lost to Mattituck Monday. Mattituck has been perennially one of the better teams in the league.

The Blue Waves’ lineup features returning seniors Chris Flood, Peter Panciocco, Cole Montefusco, John Ehlers and Kyle Gevinski.

“My top three guys are always within a stroke of each other,” Failla said. “I’ve never had this much parity since I’ve been coaching. Four-five-six are going to be fighting for those spots the rest of the year.”

Failla said he’s seen more players in recent years immersing themselves in the game and some have gotten jobs at local golf courses. “Hopefully they’ll get me on to play some of them some day,” Failla joked. “But they’re around the game all the time.”

Bishop McGann-Mercy returns six players from last year with one addition from the JV, coach Larry Eslin said.

The Monarchs, who dropped their first two matches of the season, are led by senior Vinny Viani, who’s in his third year on varsity. “He’s a good player, all-around, he plays well,” Eslin said. “He probably should be averaging in the low-40s this year.”

Senior Sean Tuthill is also in his third year and junior Chris Godsell is in his second year.

Eslin said golf is Godsell’s No. 1 sport. “I expect big things from him,” he said. “It’s nice to have people that are golf-centric. They play it year round, they don’t pick it up in August and drop it in November.”

Allan Zilnicki is in his second year on the team and figures to be in the third or fourth position.

The Monarchs play their home matches at The Vineyards Golf Club.

“It’s short yet demanding [course],” Eslin said. “Holes are in different directions. Accuracy is at a premium.”

While Riverhead and Mercy compete in League VII, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats are one league up in League VI, competing against North Shore schools like Rocky Point, Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson. The Wildcats dropped their first two matches, both of which were close in score, according to coach Rich Muller.

The Wildcats feature a mix of returners as well as some underclassmen who will compete for time, Muller said. Matt Merzbacher returns as the Wildcats’ top golfer, John Iacono in the second position along with Kyle Baylous.

Muller noted this year will see some changes to boys golf. Whereas some teams played in the spring in the past, all the action will now be in the fall. The team and individual state qualifier will be held Oct. 26.

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