Blue Waves girls golfers gear up for county qualifier

With the loss against Sachem last Thursday at Cherry Creek Links, Riverhead’s girls golf team just barely missed the playoffs, finishing in third place in League IV with an 8-4 record. But that doesn’t end their season just yet — the individual league tournament starts May 20 at Middle Island Country Club, which features three nine-hole courses, making it an attractive option for championships. Golfers who finish above the cut line will advance to the Suffolk County tournament the next day, again at Middle Island but on a different nine. The top nine finishers in the county will earn a spot in the state tournament.

Riverhead has never sent anyone to the New York State competition in its history, but Blue Waves head coach Ken Marelli feels like this year, there’s as good a shot as any.

“Our top three are as good as we’ve ever had,” Marelli said. “The girls have been working hard and improving every day. Losing out on team playoffs was tough but I’m confident we can qualify at least one of our girls to states.”

Riverhead senior Alexandra Hoverkamp nearly accomplished the feat last year, finishing 10th, just a stroke behind the ninth-place golfer. Two missed putts from close range led to her demise, but she has since moved past that and is ready to step up on the big stage.

“My scores have been much more consistent this season after being all over the place last year,” Hoverkamp said. “I didn’t really know what to expect last year going into counties so I feel much more confident this go round. I’m not completely blindsided. I’m excited to see what happens.”

Madison Marshak is one of three Blue Waves hoping to qualify for this year’s New York State girls golf championships. (Bill Landon photo.)

“Alex joined varsity as a seventh grader and was instantly the No. 2 golfer on the team,” Marelli added. “From eighth grade on she’s been my No. 1 all the way through. Each year she’s progressively gotten better and I’m excited to see how she finishes out her senior year.”

Hoverkamp has anchored the squad this season with an average score of nine over par. Riverhead’s No. 2 is second-year varsity player Madison Marshak, who as an eighth grader and can sometimes outscore Hoverkamp. Marshak has made tremendous progress this year and will likely be competing alongside Hoverkamp in the counties.

“Marshak got the love of the game through her dad,” Marelli said. “She’s a perfectionist. She’s quite possibly going to be one of Riverhead’s best once her career is finished. I remember one match, she had an off day and her dad calls me later and says ‘we’re working on fixing her swing on the practice range.’ This was just an hour after the match ended. That’s the kind of player she is.”

Marshak has averaged around 10 strokes over par during the season but she keeps getting better every time she steps on the course. 

“My chipping and putting have been the two biggest things I’ve been working on from last year,” Marshak said. “I’m trying to not lose any strokes around the pin. I’m just trying to focus on scoring better overall and I’m seeing the improvement.”

Angelina Gust, Riverhead’s No. 3 golfer, finished 12th in the county tournament last year, right in the mix to qualify for states. After averaging around 12 strokes over par this year, she’s eager to give it another go.

“I feel much more prepared coming into this year’s competition,” Gust said. “Last year I wasn’t really consistent. This year has been rough at times but I just know what to expect going into this year’s tournament. I know how I need to perform to advance.”

The girls will continue to improve and tweak their games right up until tournament day. But sometimes talent only gets you so far — you always need a little luck along the way.

“I’m really hoping to get all three of them in the states,” said Marelli, who will retire after the season. “If they have a good day in the league and county tournament and a few shots fall their way, anything is possible. They definitely have the talent. And not only that they’re all just great girls. I’ve been lucky to have been able to coach them.”