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Boys Golf: Out-of-box recruiting has Riverhead swinging

Figuring that one stick couldn’t be all that much more different than another, Steve Failla altered his recruiting strategy. In the past, the Riverhead High School boys golf coach had modest success recruiting baseball players. These days, though, he is finding his golfers from the lacrosse field, of all places.

“A lot of the same motion in a lacrosse shot is the same motion in a golf shot except the stick is inverted,” he said.

Failla may be on to something. All but one of his eight golfers are also lacrosse players. So far the results speak for themselves. The season is still young, but through Riverhead’s first three matches, the Blue Waves had won all their matches and were joined by Mattituck (4-0, 4-0) atop Suffolk County League VII.

Riverhead has never won a league championship, but given the team’s strong start, it leads one to wonder if this might be the Blue Waves’ year.

“I see it being something special,” Riverhead junior Connor Kalmus said during a break in Friday morning’s practice at Indian Island Country Club in Riverhead.

What was really special was what Riverhead did in its third match of the season on Sept. 18. After opening the campaign with a 7-2 win over Bishop McGann-Mercy and an 8-1 defeat of Greenport/Southold, Riverhead toppled Eastport-South Manor, 7-2, at Pine Hills Golf and Country Club in Manorville. Eastport and Mattituck had shared the league crown the past two years.

“It was a big win because last year we lost like every match [against Eastport], one through six,” said sophomore Chris Timpone, who shot a nine-hole 41 that day on the par-37 course.

Heading into this past Tuesday’s match against Hampton Bays on the par-36 front nine at Cherry Creek Golf Links in Riverhead, Timpone led the team with a 39 average, followed by Kalmus with a 41, Anthony Caputo with a 42 and Matt Greaves with a 43. Connor Batjer, Alex Meras and Dan Mastropaolo were all at 44 while Jonathan Kenney sat at 49. All of them are juniors, except for Timpone, a sophomore in his fourth year on the team, and Greaves, the sole senior. Failla calls them all a “band of brothers.”

Along with the infusion of lacrosse talent, Riverhead has also been aided by the addition last year of a junior varsity team, the fruits of which are already being seen.

“In the past we’ve had six guys that loved to play golf and a couple of golfers in there,” said Failla, who is in his fourth year coaching the team, which went 6-6 last year. “Now, these are all golfers. So there is a difference.”

And, of course, nothing can replace practice, practice, practice. Players like Kalmus took that to heart. “He golfed a lot in the summer,” Failla said, adding: “I’d go to Cherry Creek over the summer, I’d run into Connor. I’d be here [at Indian Island] over the summer, I’d run into Connor.”

Kalmus said: “You can’t just have one day and think that it’s going to work. You have to stay at the range, hit thousands of balls and fix all of your mechanics.”

Timpone spent the summer working at a camp at Indian Island and trimmed three strokes of his game. “That’s why I played every day over the summer,” he said.

So, how does lacrosse fit into this whole thing?

Kalmus said, “I think maybe the torque in our shot, our lacrosse shot, can translate well to golf, putting your hips through it.”

So far it has been working.

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Photo caption: Riverhead sophomore Chris Timpone chipping during practice Friday morning at Indian Island Country Club in Riverhead. (Credit: Bob Liepa)