Sharing is nice, but when it comes to league championships, teams would rather have it all.
For the first time ever, the Riverhead boys golf team has a league title it can call its own.
Riverhead picked up its third league crown in four years. The only difference this time is the Blue Waves didn’t have to share it with Mattituck, as they did the previous two times.
Having finished in sole possession of first place for the first time with a spotless 10-0 record in Suffolk County League VII, one could make the argument that this is the greatest Riverhead boys golf team ever.
“It’s impressive,” freshman Colby Baran said. “In the last year we improved significantly to the point where we just almost blew out every team we played.”
“It wasn’t completely unexpected,” he continued. “We knew we had a good team. Last year we were 9 and 1, so we knew we definitely had a shot, but knowing that we did as good as we did, it’s a good feeling.”
Signs were seen early, during tryouts in August, that this could be a special team. Coach Steve Failla said it was the most competitive tryouts he had seen since taking over the team in 2015.
“We cut good golfers this year, so the word is out, and the guys, they know when they show up Day One in August that they’re going to be fighting for a spot. It’s a great lesson for life,” he said.
“They know that when they show up in August that they have to bring their ‘A’ game, so they’re working at it all summer long and the spring.”
From those tryouts, 11 players made the team — and then proceeded to make their mark. With the exception of an 8-1 win over Hampton Bays, Riverhead has won every one of its matches by 9-0 scores, including its final league match at Shelter Island last Wednesday.
Griffin Sumwalt, a junior, said Riverhead “started off the season well, and then as we went further on, we were like, ‘We could do this. Like, we could win every single match.’ ”
Riverhead’s triumph over Mattituck Sept. 29 marked the Tuckers’ first loss on their North Fork Country Club course in Cutchogue in eight years, according to Failla.
How did Riverhead win on Mattituck’s home course?
“If I tell you, you’ll tell everybody,” Failla said. “It’s just goal-setting. The boys set goals and they work hard. You know, the program has come a long way. Our program has come a long way in the last six years, you know, and they’re committed to their craft.”
Baran, who finished the league season with a 36.4 nine-hole average, has played in the team’s No. 1 slot the entire season, with the exception of one match when Sumwalt (37.4) played there. Sumwalt was the team’s No. 2 player for the rest of the matches. Riverhead’s sole senior, Jace Pesce (38.1), was in the No. 3 position more than anyone else.
The competition continues.
On Tuesday, one day before the Conference IV Tournament is to be held at Riverhead’s Cherry Creek Golf Links course, the Blue Waves still hadn’t settled which six golfers they would send to the tournament.
“It was tough to cut back in August, and it’s tough to tell some guys that they’re not going to be in the top six and today I’m gonna have to tell some good golfers that they’re not going to be playing tomorrow because we only bring six,” Failla said during practice. “They are in complete control of the outcome. Their scores today will determine who’s playing.
“I’m a closet teddy bear, you know. I’m so proud of these boys overall. I wish I could bring more than six.”
It was determined at Tuesday’s practice that those six golfers will be Baran, Sumwalt and Pesce, joined by juniors Zach Timpone (38.8), Jaxson Hubbard (39.3) and Luke Richard (39.2).
Five juniors — Mark Gajowski, Kyle Kaelin, Colin Lynch, Ryan Densieski and Preston Swenk — comprise the rest of the roster.
Sumwalt said the current team is better than last year’s squad. “We have way more depth this year and every single kid is very good,” he said.
This year Riverhead wasn’t in a sharing mood when it came to the league title.
“Way better,” Baran said. “We’re not co-league champions. We’re league champions.”