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Golf

Port Jefferson Country Club hosted a sectional qualifying round July 15 for the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship, featuring local talent with the hope of making the cut to compete in the final round at Pinehurst (North Carolina) Resort and Country Club Aug 12-18.

The qualifier was one of 96 tournaments held across the country, and with 84 golfers vying for the top three spots to make the cut, Brent Ito of Ann Arbor, Michigan tied with Ethan Ng of New York City to finish at 7-under. Andrew Chambers of Boca Raton, Florida finished 5-under, to round out the top three.

Ward Melville alum and Port Jeff resident Gerald Mackedon, a junior at St. John’s University, shot a 68 in the first round followed by a 72 in the second, coming in at 4-under for the tournament to secure the first alternate position for the championship in Pinehurst.

Port Jeff resident Jon Sherman survived the first round with a 75 and shot a 79 in the second to finish at 10-over.

Port Jefferson resident and 2019 graduate Shane DeVincenzo, who earlier this season won his second consecutive Suffolk championship, went on to place second in the New York State championship round June 3 at Cornell University. DeVincenzo shot a 77.

Matthew Mirocco, another Ward Melville graduate, finished the day shooting 80.

Complete results can be found here.

Schedules match play championship

Smithtown Landing golf course gets a makeover. Photo from the Town of Smithtown

On July 8, Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and his fellow elected leaders joined with PGA master professional and golf Hall of Famer Michael Hebron and tournament organizer David Capo at the Smithtown Landing Country Club. Wehrheim announced registration was officially open for the first-ever Sarazen Par Three Match Play Championship, aka “The Squire”. The announcement came one week after major renovations and repairs to the golf club were completed.

Left to right: PGA Hall of Famer Michael Hebron, Director of Parks Joe Arico, Director of Recreation Tom McCaffery, Superintendent of Highways Robert Murphy, golf championship organizer David Capo, Councilwoman Lisa Inzerillo, Director of Traffic Safety Mitch Crowley, Receiver of Taxes Deanna Varrichio, Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy, Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, Councilwoman Lynne Nowick, Town Clerk Vincent Puleo and Councilman Tom Lohmann. Photo from Town of Smithtown

“Over the last year-and-a-half we set out to invest in smart improvements to the Smithtown community that would result in a return on investment for the taxpayer. The renovations just completed here at Landing speak to this point,” Wehrheim said. “I am very pleased to present the community with this exciting match play event, which will undoubtedly bring attention to the historic roots here at Landing and generate a weekend of new foot traffic for surrounding businesses.”

Recent renovations to the Smithtown Landing Country Club include repaved golf cart paths, entryway, roads, curbs and pavement, new starter shack, newly renovated halfway house, sidewalk areas, benches and fencing. An entryway island was redesigned and landscaped with plantings, signage and renovated crosswalks featuring all new traffic calming signs and lighting. Additionally,  ID cards have been instituted for the pool and golf course, which has already generated $6,000 in new revenue in two weeks. Building renovations are set to begin in the fall. The Smithtown Departments of Parks, Building and Grounds; Recreation; Traffic Safety and Highway were responsible for the completion of the work. 

“It’s been an honor for me to be here for many years and see the influence the town’s golf course has had on the community. To be a part of this team has been an opportunity for me to share what we can do with the community,” PGA Hall of Famer Michael Hebron said. “Children’s camps, children going off to play golf in college, children developing social and business skills through golf … to be a small part of the big picture here has been a real honor.”

This event is meant to honor the life of golf legend Gene Sarazen, known as “The Squire,” who helped to design the Par Three Course at the Smithtown Landing Country Club. Many golfers who have played on the course have said it is one of the most difficult par three courses they have played. 

“We embarked on a five-year project in the Town of Smithtown, and part of that is understanding the history … it’s a fascinating place,” said golf championship organizer David Capo. “After finding an old map, learning that the course weaves along the historic Culper Spy Ring … I came down to talk with Michael Hebron and his knowledge about the history of Smithtown Landing helped to inspire this event.”

The opening ceremony will take place on July 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. with the two-day championship running July 27 and July 28. Golfers at all skill levels (ages 16 and older) are invited to register for the 64 available spots in this 100 percent handicap par three match play championship, held on the Sarazen par three course. 

The opening ceremony will feature presentations by Wehrheim, Hebron and members of the Sarazen Family. Practice rounds are available by contacting the pro shop at 631-979-6534. 

Registration is $29 per golfer to enter the tournament. Tickets to attend the opening ceremony party are $25. Registration closes on July 20. 

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Port Jefferson’s boys golf team defeated Mount Sinai on the links 8-1 Sept. 27 at Willow Creek Golf & Country Club in Mount Sinai, moving its record to 4-1 this season. The Royals will be back in action Oct. 4 at 3:30 p.m. at Port Jefferson Country Club against Longwood.

Crab Meadow Golf course.

Vandals struck the Town of Huntington’s Crab Meadow Golf Course causing about  $124,000 in damages earlier this week.

Huntington Town officials announced four holes at the Crab Meadow Golf Course in Northport were damaged overnight between July 30 and 31.

“It’s a shame that someone would attempt to destroy one of the town’s great recreational attractions,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “Don’t let them spoil your fun — I encourage all who enjoy golf to take advantage of our discounted rates while the three greens are repaired.”

“It’s a shame that someone would attempt to destroy one of the town’s great recreational attractions.”

– Chad Lupinacci

The vandalism to holes 1, 11 and 17 occurred between 9 p.m. July 30, when the final golf cart was turned in, and 2 a.m. July 31 when a golf course employee arrived, according to the town.  The damage appears to have been done by a blunt object as opposed to a dirt bike, town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said.

One of the greens sustained insignificant damaged, which will be repaired in-house by town employees, Lembo said. The town will be filing an insurance claim for the estimated costs of  repairs at $124,000, which will take approximately four to six weeks, and for any lost revenue during that time.

The town has filed a police report, and the public safety department is ramping up park ranger and security patrols immediately in response to the incident. While gates to the golf course are locked each night and public safety officers patrol, according to Lembo, there are no security cameras at the site.

Due to the damage, the town will offer a 10 percent discount on greens fees for golfers as there are temporary greens in place at holes 1, 11 and 17. One exception, this excludes the
demand-based pricing promotion implemented earlier this year.

The town established a pilot promotion late this spring to drive up nonresident business, which has been a success. The golf course offers discounted rates during off-peak hours, reducing rates to tee off for nonresidents and residents without a golf cart. This has resulted in increased use of the golf course.

“We hosted approximately 1,000 rounds of golf this weekend, which is about 18 percent higher than usual,” said Greg Wagner, the town’s director of Parks & Recreation.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call 800-220-TIPS (8477).

Redeems last season’s one-hole playoff loss for runner-up status

Port Jefferson's Shane DeVincenzo bested his last season runner-up record by placing first in the Suffolk County championship Nov. 4. Photo from Port Jefferson athletics

By Jim Ferchland

For Shane DeVincezo, the mental game of golf has always been his focus. The Port Jefferson junior came into the Nov. 3 Suffolk County championship hoping to place in the Top 9, as is his goal every season, and after finishing with a 69, 2-under par, on the first day of the tournament Nov. 2, he knew he was in a good place to keep pushing toward his target position.

“I thought, if I try to go out there and win, the Top 9 will just automatically happen,” he said. “If I try to go for Top 9 and just worry about that and not push for the lead, I think I’ve got a good chance. I thought, with the position I’m in right now, there’s no doubt I can make states.”

With his first place Suffolk County finish, Port Jefferson golfer Shane DeVincenzo qualified to compete in the state tournament. Photo by Jim Ferchland

DeVincenzo followed up his day one performance with an even-par 71 Friday to capture the county title with a 36-hole total of 140, good for 2-under-par at Manorville’s Rock Hill Golf and Country Club.

The Port Jefferson golfer avenged his second-place finish from last year’s tournament in capturing the top spot. In 2016 he lost to East Hampton’s Turner Foster on a one-hole playoff. Foster finished tied for second in Suffolk Nov. 3.

Port Jefferson head coach Chuck Ruoff said he is proud of what his athlete has accomplished.

“He wasn’t going to let last year define him,” Ruoff said. “I know that in his heart last year gave him a lot of motivation. For two days he just went out and played his best.”

DeVincenzo overcame a rocky front nine in the first round by his standards, shooting one over to start his tournament. He rallied after that and finished three under on the back nine for the best score of the day.

“I felt I did really good,” DeVincenzo said on his performance on that back nine. “I wouldn’t say it was really a bad front nine — the front nine is a lot harder here and you just gotta get through it. On the back nine, my putter got rolling and I made a lot of good putts which saved me. Three under par is pretty good.”

He said there was something familiar about the Manorville course that he thought gave him an advantage.

“These greens are kind of like Port Jeff,” DeVincenzo said. “They’re just a little more sloped, but distance-wise and yardage-wise, they’re practically the same. Playing at Port Jeff definitely helps playing at Rock Hill.”

Port Jefferson junior Shane DeVincenzo swings away during the first of the two-day Suffolk County championship tournament. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Ruoff has been by DeVincenzo’s side since he starting golding in eighth grade, and said he’s in awe of the 16-year-old’s abilities.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Ruoff said of DeVincenzo’s talent. “He picked up the game somewhat late for someone who’s got to this ability level. Just between how hard he works and the instruction he’s given, it’s just really hard to explain. Year to year he’s made huge jumps in his game.”

Although DeVincenzo also trains at Port Jefferson Country Club under head professional Bill Mackedon, he said he looks at Ruoff like his best friend, adding that his coach makes the game a lot easier.

“We bond very well — I really like him as a coach,” he said. “Ever since I started in eighth grade, he’s been there as a supporter. Even when I’m struggling he’s there to help me. I have him to back me up and he helps me boost up my confidence.”

DeVincenzo golfed in a foursome Nov. 3 along with Pierson’s Henry Brooks, Eastport-South Manor’s Andrea Ternavasio and Sayville’s Sean Haselton. DeVincenzo has played with his Sayville opponent before.

“Me and Shane have been playing together for a long time,” Haselton said. “He got hot with the putter today and that’s what did it for him. I feel we feed off each other — he makes a good putt, then I make a good putt. We both played really solid. It’s fun to play with people playing well.”

Haselton finished the first day with a 73, one over par, and ended day two tied for second with

Foster and Habrorfields’ Pat Healy. In the team competition, he helped Sayville win its first county title since 2013 with an 813, ahead of Harborfields (826) and Smithtown West (831).

Port Jefferson’s Shane DeVincenzo eyes his target. Photo by Jim Ferchland

DeVincenzo, the second-place trio, Huntington’s Tyler Gerbavsits (148), Sayville’s Brendan Smith (152) and Smithtown West’s John Pawlowski (153) all qualified to compete in the state tournament, along with Connetquot’s Kyle Zere and Huntington’s Matt Giamo, who finished tied for eighth at 154. They earned the final two spots by besting Harborfields’ Andre Chi in a one-hole playoff.

Pierson’s Brooks also said he enjoyed playing alongside top competitors, saying he was fascinated seeing DeVincenzo play for the first time.

“He played great today,” Brooks said of DeVincenzo. “He was hitting every drive straight — drilling long putts. He was really dialed in.”

Even before DeVincenzo’s performance at Rock Hill, Ruoff said his athlete is the greatest player he’s ever coached.

“Without a doubt in my mind he is,” Ruoff said. “There have been some great players that we’ve had the privilege of seeing at Ward Melville, who is our closest competitor, through the years. As far as Port Jeff goes, he’s been the best player I’ve been around by far.”

Ruoff said he sees DeVincenzo finishing Top 5 in the state.

“I feel that anything can happen on a given day in a round of golf, but he’s certainly right at the top,” Ruoff said of DeVincenzo. “Every year he has slightly exceeded his high expectations, and I have high expectations for him. He just blessed with a lot of talent.”

Port Jefferson's Shane DeVincenzo. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Two years ago, Port Jefferson’s boys golf team handed Ward Melville a loss that broke a 88-match win streak. The Patriots returned that favor at Port Jefferson Country Club Oct. 3, winning the round by a single stroke to snap the Royals’ undefeated streak this season.

Port Jefferson junior Shane DeVincenzo, a two-time All-County and All-State golfer, came in at one over par in the first wave. Although it wasn’t his best round, shooting a 37, he was pleased with his result.

“My personal best on this course for nine holes is a 32,” DeVincenzo said. “I think it takes confidence more than anything — you go into these matches saying you’re going to win and [that] helps you believe it. If you go into it thinking you might not win, it’s going to be a lot closer.”

Ward Melville’s Palmer Van Tuyl. Photo by Bill Landon

The match was a lot closer than it was the first time the two teams met, and that didn’t surprise Port Jefferson head coach Chuck Ruoff. Either way, he was wowed by what DeVincenzo continues to do out on the course. Last time the two teams met, the junior shot a 34.

“He’s unbelievable,” Ruoff said of his Suffolk County runner-up from last season.  “For the remaining matches, if we go out and play the way we’re capable of, I think we’ll end up with the result we want.”

The Patriots may be a young team, with just one senior on the roster, but Ward Melville’s underclassmen were right behind the rest of the pack, like sophomore Palmer Van Tuyl, who shot a 41.

“I hit a bunch of good shots, but Shane DeVincenzo is a tremendous golfer,” Van Tuyl said. “He started off with a few medium-length par putts, so I was down early. And toward the middle of the round I had a couple of ups and downs for par.”

Port Jeff junior Josh Gelfond, a two-time All-League player, struggled with his ball contact. He shot 40,  edging his opponent by  two strokes, but has done better than his plus four performance on his home course.

“My best is a 34, so today I was pretty good around the greens and scrambling, but my ball striking wasn’t the best,” he said. “Normally around the greens is one of the strongest parts of my game, but I need to work on consistency with my iron play.”

Ward Melville Gavin Gerard. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville head coach Bob Spira said the narrow win was especially gratifying for him after losing to the Royals earlier in the season.

“We practice chipping and putting — the short game is really important,” Spira said of his team’s many workouts at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, the Patriots’ home course. “The kids golf a lot themselves [outside of the team], and that creates a lot of depth, [despite how] very young we are.”

Ward Melville junior Alexander Korkuc had his short game working for him, but after shooting a 44 left a few strokes out on the green. He looks to improve with four games left in the regular season.

“I thought my chipping and pitching was very good today, but I left a couple of putts short,” he said. “I just misread a couple of putts. As a team we just have to practice harder, work on our drills better and stay positive.”

Ruoff attributes a large part of his team’s success — the Royals went on a 6-0 run to start the season —  to the association with Port Jefferson Country Club.

“They love being around the course; the facility provides a lot for them,” Ruoff said. “They’re able to practice and play, get instruction basically whenever they want, so it’s a very strong relationship.”

With the win, Ward Melville improves to 5-1, but Ruoff said despite the blemish, he sees big things happening for his Royals this season.

“They just want to compete,” he said. “I set them in the right direction, and they’re taking care of the rest.”

Susan and Bob Dow, along with professional golfer Patrick Reed, at center, hold up the PGA TOUR tournament trophy. Photo from Wellspring Communications

By Kevin Redding

As cancer continues to touch his family’s life, a Miller Place golf lover is raising thousands of dollars on and off the course to combat the disease. Bob Dow, the winner of last year’s PGA volunteer tournament, which raises a total $15,000 to local charities, is back at it this year to raise more money and awareness.

Dow remembers it as clear as day. Following his wife Susan’s routine breast health exam at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip in September 2011, the 58-year-old business owner recalls his fear when the phone rang and the doctor on the other end asked Susan to come back in. They found something.

“I was sick to my stomach when I heard this,” Dow said. “I just didn’t know what that meant, whereas my wife is the type of strong person who just said, ‘OK, what do we have to do here?’”

“I’m a super competitive person both in business and in life, and I’ve always approached everything in my life with the mindset that I will do my best.”

Bob Dow

For Susan, 55, who was soon diagnosed with breast cancer, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before she got this call, as the disease had been so prevalent in her family. Her grandmother died from ovarian cancer and her mother is a 30-year breast cancer survivor.

The Dows attacked the diagnosis head-on, spending the next few years in and out of the hospital through six surgeries. Bob Dow said his wife never missed out on the big family moments, such as their daughter’s sporting events, senior prom or graduation.

But Dow has been no slouch either. Aside from taking part in cancer awareness walks and events over the last five years, he was determined to do something more for the cancer cause than merely serve as a caregiver. He got his opportunity last year when he volunteered as a PGA marshal at the Barclays golf tournament, which took place on Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale.

A longtime lover of the sport, Dow was drawn in, excited to be around professional golfers like Stewart Cink and Patrick Reed, but it was when he discovered a PGA Tour Volunteer Challenge offered by Barclays that he was able to against cancer his way to help his wife and others fighting cancer.

The nationwide challenge, which began in 2015, is a friendly fundraising competition among the thousands of volunteers that participate to try to drum up as many votes as possible for “favorite volunteer,” mostly through a ready-made website and individualized campaigning.

The person with the most votes presents a $10,000 check in their name to a charity of the tournament’s choosing, and an additional $5,000 to one of the winner’s choice.

Bob Dow, at left, holds up his $10,000 check for The First Tee of Metro NY after last year’s win. Photo from Wellspring Communications

When he wasn’t helping to keep the flow of the tournament going by controlling the crowds or making sure the players are able to move from one hole to the next without a problem, Dow as volunteer went above and beyond to collect a total 1,460 votes through Twitter, Facebook and email blasts.

He won the challenge, and presented a $10,000 check to The First Tee of Metropolitan New York and $5,000 to his chosen charity, American Cancer Society, Hauppauge chapter.

“I’m a super competitive person both in business and in life, and I’ve always approached everything in my life with the mindset that I will do my best, will work the hardest and, in this case, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I was going to win,” Dow said, adding that his wife was his biggest inspiration. “She is the love of my life.”

His wife, who is currently in remission, said in a series of texts that although she’s the one who inspired him, he’s truly her hero.

“I am so blessed to have married my best friend,” she wrote. “I am incredibly proud … a little overwhelmed, but that is just par for the course (no pun intended). I wish I can say I was surprised, but that is just who he is — always willing to be there, lend a hand and fight for a cause. When he has a passion for something, he will move heaven and earth to see it through.”

That passion continues to burn as Dow sets his sights on winning this year’s challenge, now sponsored by Chicago-based company, Northern Trust.

In a competition of 1,200 volunteers, he’s campaigning to raise more money for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and the tournament’s charity of choice, Tackle Kids Cancer, with a new inspiration: his sister-in-law who was diagnosed six months ago with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

“I’ve seen [Bob[’s not just passionate about being a volunteer, but also about doing everything he can to advance the research for cancer cures and treatments…”

Peter Mele

This year, he’s also volunteered to be the face of the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign, which advocates men to take on the cause of the fight against breast cancer.

“Bob is one of those people who, when he puts his mind to something, he perseveres and has no other goal but the finish line,” said Katie Goepfrich, specialist of community events at the society. “He’s going to do everything he can to make a difference in the world right now.”

Peter Mele, executive director of Northern Trust, called Dow an ideal volunteer.

“He’s very passionate about what he does and is quite passionate about the American Cancer Society,” Mele said of Dow, who spoke recently at the organization’s media conference. “As I’ve come to know Bob, I’ve seen he’s not just passionate about being a volunteer, but also about doing everything he can to advance the research for cancer cures and treatments to help people survive this terrible disease. I think his message gets out there really well.”

In true fashion, Dow is eager to be the one to present the checks again this year.

“When they calculate the votes next Saturday, I want to be on top again,” he said.

From now until 2 p.m. Aug. 26, people can vote for the Dow family in the volunteer challenge at www.tourchallenge.com.

Gerry Mackedon has become a swinging success, finishing qualifier nine strokes ahead of second

Gerry Mackedon swings away during a St. John’s University tournament. photo by Big East/Stephen B. Morton

By Desirée Keegan

Gerry Mackedon can be found swinging his golf club until the sun sets.

Once the Port Jefferson native’s shift is over at the local country club, the St. John’s University sophomore takes time to perfect his game.

“Gerry spends six or seven hours a day maintaining his game and training for his tournament schedule,” said his father Bill Mackedon, a Professional Golfers’ Association of America head golf professional at Port Jefferson Country Club. “During the summer months, unlike with most kids, there’s really been no taking the summer off. He’s very dedicated to giving himself the opportunity to, and improving, his skills to become the best golfer he can be.”

Gerry Mackedon competes for the Red Storm as a freshman. Photo from St. John’s Athletics Communications

Gerry Mackedon is coming off some recent successful tournaments, and is currently competing in the New York State Men’s Amateur Golf Championship at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course to prepare himself for the USGA U.S. Amateur golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California, Aug. 14 to 20.

Last month he won the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship sectional qualifying round at Huntington Country Club with a 131 36-hole performance — nine strokes under par and ahead of the second-place finishers at even par.

“I am deeply honored by this accomplishment and hope I can represent Port Jefferson Country Club by playing my best golf ever,” Mackedon said in a country club statement. “I am extremely thankful to all of the members who have shown me support in many ways during the last few weeks.”

Winning by that margin is something St. John’s University head coach, Mal Galletta, said is an impressive achievement.

“No matter what his score is in relation to par, to win anything by nine shots in golf shows tremendous ability to put yourself way ahead of the competition,” he said. “His ability to go low, too — it really shows that he’s not just comfortable with winning by one. Not many players can do that or have that mind-set, and I think that’s going to bode well for him in his future.”

Mackedon also placed first at the Michael Hebron championship, the Long Island Golf Association’s top amateur stroke play, Aug. 1 at Bethpage Black.

“It’s nice to play a tough golf course like that — Riviera is a tough golf course as well,” he said. “I still have a lot of work to do so playing well in that tournament gives me some confidence.”

“He was always a top player and he’s so focused and very dedicated to the game.”

— Bob Spira

Mackedon began swinging the club seriously at the age of 10, but was a tri-sport athlete at Ward Melville, playing baseball and basketball.

“I think children should play multiple sports,” the standout golfer’s father said. “It enhances their abilities in each. I think it helped in his development as a golfer.”

Although the swing for baseball is different than golf, the Ward Melville graduate tried out for the varsity golf team in seventh grade, and made the team.

“His stroke was good and he had a great straight ball — at that stage he just needed to work on his mental game,” Ward Melville head coach Bob Spira said. “He was always a top player and he’s so focused and very dedicated to the game.”

Mackedon captured the Suffolk County individual title by shooting a 145, three strokes over par, and also led Ward Melville to its second-straight Suffolk County team championship his senior year. He finished second in the state tournament — one stroke behind first.

He also competed in the renowned American Junior Golf Association circuit, where he shot an average of 77.3 per round, and placed first in both U.S. challenge cups — the Long Island and Northeast junior classics. He took second place in the 2015 Met PGA future series at Bethpage Red, finished third in the 2015 Met PGA future series at Eisenhower Park White and carded a 64 to post another first-place showing at the Met PGA junior event.

“He has a natural talent and that ability to make it look easy.”

— Mal Galletta

“Gerry’s ability to go low is very special,” said Jim White, a Port Jefferson Country Club member and former Long Island caddie scholarship winner. “To win U.S. Amateur sectional qualifying medalist honors by nine strokes is unheard of. He’s a great kid.”

Bill Mackedon said he and his son practiced on his short game for the first two years as the young golfer’s body changed month to month, before adding to his repertoire.

“The initial training and development was to make him an outstanding player around the greens,” the father said. “Then we worked on his full swing and training him to play at the highest level he could possibly play at.”

The head pro said his son’s determination never wavered.

“He stayed within the Mackedon realm when it comes to instruction, but he’s a student of the game,” he said. “He studies the swing — he does what he needs to do. In my opinion, he out trains and outthinks most athletes on the golf course and I think that’s why he’s been so successful.”

He learned from not only his father, who won numerous PGA section events and three player of the year awards while still holding three course records, but also from his grandfather, a head professional for more than 35 years.

Gerry Mackedon winning the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship qualifier at Huntington Country Club. Photo from Bill Mackedon

Galletta said he sees the work put in, as his athlete came away with a one-hole playoff win for the Connecticut Cup Championship in October — just a month into his college career.

“He has a natural talent and that ability to make it look easy,” he said. “Besides his playing record, I was really impressed with the length he can hit the ball, even in high school. He’s committed to the team and wants the team to win just as much, if not more than he’d like to see himself win.”

His achievements have helped him proudly continue his family’s legacy.

“My wife Michele and I are very excited of this segue into possibly playing beyond college golf,” the college coach said. “I think it’s the beginning of a very bright future for Gerry.”

At the Riviera Country Club, he will be competing in the USGA championship won by the likes of Bobby Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

“I just hope Gerry enjoys the experience out there,” Galletta said. “Even people who are just part-time golfers, or even those who don’t know Bill or Gerry, should rally around him and be proud of that fact that someone is doing well enough at that age to compete on a national level. It’s a top-notch professional championship setup, and having competed in it myself I know it’s a different feeling than anything else he’s ever competed in. I hope he takes it all in and if he puts his head to the fact that he can do well, besides just thinking about the fantastic achievement of qualifying, I think big things are coming his way.”

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Sophomore finishes sixth in state tournament

Shane DeVincenzo swings away during the state Federation golf tournament in Bethpage, where he placed fifth. Photo from Matt DeVincenzo

Intense focus is a common characteristic among many successful golfers.

For Port Jefferson golfer Shane DeVincenzo it’s no different. On a whiteboard in his room, he wrote down five goals back in January — place in the Top 10 in the American Junior Golf Association preview tournament, rank in the Top 20 among New York State high school golfers, win two tournaments this summer, become a Suffolk County and state champion, and sign a letter of intent to play golf in college.

Shane DeVincenzo with his fifth-place medal following the state Federation tournament at Bethpage. He became the first Royal since 1962 to be named All-State. Photo from Matt DeVincenzo

The standout athlete clearly has a laser-like focus on his goals, as he has already checked off the first two items on his list, and the sophomore isn’t stopping there.

“My whole summer is going to be golf,” Shane said. “I’ve progressed really quickly, and the better I get the more I like it.”

Shane started swinging a golf club during the summer before eighth grade. As a freshman, he traveled upstate to compete for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association title, and finished 60th. Returning this past season, he placed ninth in the AJGA preview tournament; finished second in the county, losing in a sudden-death playoff hole; and moved up to sixth in the state and fifth in Federation, which earned him All-State honors. The 16-year-old is the first Royal since 1962 to achieve the feat.

“I still don’t think it’s sunk in yet — to me, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal,” Shane said of his huge turnaround in the state tournament. “But it pushes me to keep going.”

Although he may not notice how big the boost up in the rankings really is, especially being that there are no classes or divisions in New York high school golf, his head coach at Port Jefferson was there to reassure him he’s growing in the sport, and fast.

“The first few days he came down to tryouts, you could see he had some ability, it was just a matter of where he was going to go from there, and how hard he was going to work,” Port Jefferson head coach Chuck Ruoff said of his initial impressions of Shane. “I’ve seen tremendous progression. The trajectory he’s taken in the past three years — the improvement — I’ve never seen anything like it.”

He has come a long way not only individually, but he has also helped make a name for the school, as he joins recent Port Jefferson athletes who have turned in some stellar performances in wrestling soccer, basketball and now golf recently.

“We’ve been fortunate this year to have a couple of kids that put Port Jeff back on the map in a lot of different ways,” Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said. “It’s changing the whole athletic scape of the district. He’s been a light switch.”

“I’ve seen some kids among other teams we play — a lot of great players — and Shane is certainly putting himself right up there. He’s the best player to come through Port Jeff, definitely in my time and probably ever.”

— Chuck Ruoff

Besides working with Ruoff for the past three seasons, Shane signed up for lessons with Port Jefferson Country Club head professional golf instructor Bill Mackedon, who competed in PGA tour events, won three Player of the Year awards and still holds three course records. Mackedon’s father was also a head pro at country clubs for 35 years.

“He has fantastic fundamentals,” Mackedon said. “We’re fortunate that we come across children that are gifted athletically, and he’s certainly one of those kids. Shane’s developed so nicely.”

The pair has also been working together for three years, in the hopes of becoming more competitive over the last two.

“He has exceptional talent and I think he can play at the highest level if he continues to improve,” Mackedon said. “I think the future is certainly bright for him.”

Shane has learned to properly grip the club from his coaches, successfully complete pulling back on the iron, lowering it and swinging away, and now he’s working on rotating his lower body to gain maximum distance.

“I give credit to both of them,” Shane said of his coaches. “They’ve taught me a lot of things. They’ve brought me a long way.”

Mackedon said given Shane’s age and current skill level, his future success will come down to conditioning, which they work on twice a week. His Port Jeff coach said his athlete never stops working.

“Shane is a perfectionist,” Ruoff said. “Until he feels he’s comfortable with it, he won’t stop. He’ll continue to work at that skill, continue to address that problem. By the second year of him playing, he was clearly the best player we had. He was making a name for himself among other players in the league, and took even another step forward this year, and clearly established himself as the best player in our league.”

Shane was taking on players from top teams like Ward Melville, Northport and Middle Country. He used his work ethic and drive to help Port Jefferson outscore Ward Melville twice this past season, for the first time in school history. The Patriots had previously gone on an 88-match win streak that ended last year.

Shane DeVincenzo tees off during the the state Federation tournament at Bethpage. Photo from Matt DeVincenzo

“I’ve seen some kids among other teams we play — a lot of great players — and Shane is  putting himself right up there,” Ruoff said. “He’s the best player to come through Port Jeff, definitely in my time and probably ever.”

In Ruoff’s eyes, Shane’s greatness is evidence of his dedication to the sport, and the changes he has made to continue to reach his goals.

During the state tournament, Shane was one shot off the lead going into the back nine. He got into an unlucky situation where his ball was buried in a bunker, and his score rose as a result.

“At that point, he could’ve done one of two things — he could have let that be the end, and let it continue to bother him, or push through it,” Ruoff said. “And he didn’t let it affect his game. That poise, confidence and consistency is something we’re striving for. He has all the tools — the physicality and the skills. He’ll be our team leader this fall and we’re hoping to go back to Cornell [University] and make our way to the top of the leaderboard.”

Shane’s father Matt DeVincenzo, athletic director in the Comsewogue School District, who has seen two of his sons go on to make names for themselves in wrestling, couldn’t help but smile thinking about all his son has achieved in such a short time.

“It turned out to be the best choice for him,” he said of Shane, who also played middle school football, baseball and basketball, and continues to wrestle. “He’s matured so much since last year — he doesn’t get as rattled when he doesn’t make a good shot — he looks like a seasoned kid out there.”

DeVinenzo recalled the first time he took his son to the Country Fair after they returned from a golf camp, which is where he got hooked on swinging the club.

“I recorded him because I thought it was fun,” DeVincenzo said. “Now, Shane and I look at the video to see how far he’s come.”

Shane DeVincenzo, second from left, with the top eight golfers in the state. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

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A golfer lines up his shot at Simplay in Hauppauge. Photo from Paul Muto

The sports are simulated, but the uniqueness of this new Hauppauge business is very much real.

Simplay, located at 180 Commerce Drive, opened its doors back in November in the heart of the Hauppauge Industrial Park as Long Island’s largest simulated sports arena, but its offerings go much further than just virtual driving ranges. Former U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Wyllie, who opened Simplay alongside co-owner Chuck Merritt, said his business has wide appeal to the full gamut of people in the greater Smithtown community, acting as place to blow off steam in a variety of ways including, but not limited to, kids’ birthday parties, baby showers, corporate events and more.

“Chuck and I shared a vision of bringing an unprecedented simulated sports and indoor country club offering to the Long Island community,” Wyllie said. “We’ve worked hard and built the stadium, so to speak, and are confident the players will want to come.”

Simplay is a 15,000-square-foot space filled with simulators that customers can rent on an hourly basis either in-store or online. But when they are not golfing, patrons can also kick back in front of any of the 14 high definition televisions throughout the facility, or hit the fully stocked bar near the front entrance.

Chris Wyllie plays hockey at Simplay in Hauppauge. Photo by Phil Corso
Chris Wyllie plays hockey at Simplay in Hauppauge. Photo by Phil Corso

For the average businessperson spending their time at the industrial park, Simplay serves as a place to blend work and play, Wyllie said. Deals could virtually be brokered over a leisurely game of virtual golf, or over the facility’s indoor putting green.

For the recreational golfer, Simplay boasts its array of 87 different Professional Golfers’ Association courses to hone skills on, whether it’s during a lunch hour or after hours.

“There are only a few places on Long Island with golf simulators, but nobody has the multi-sport applications that we do,” Merritt said. “We hope to be that go-to destination on Long Island.”

For the family, there is even more up for grabs, Wyllie said. In an attempt to keep the young ones occupied while the “grown-ups” work on their strokes, simulators could be transformed into virtual hockey arenas, football games or even zombie dodgeball bouts.

“It’s a big deal to people to know that we are very serious about golfing,” Wyllie said. “But all these others things we offer are important because they take this out of seasonality and allow anyone to let loose.”

In the back of Simplay, Wyllie and his partner Merritt crafted two VIP rooms and a 4,000-square-foot venue room they said was ideal for business meetings and corporate functions. It’s enough options to make someone’s head spin, but the co-owners said that was the goal, because their facility was multifaceted for different uses.

And to keep the community ties strong, Simplay has already reached out to various golf teams based out of Smithtown schools as a potential place to host practices and team events, Wyllie said. Such things, he said, could lead to more collaborative plans like golf leagues and more to attract patrons from not only Smithtown, but greater Long Island.

“There is a tremendous need for something like this in this community, we believe,” he said. “We haven’t even tapped into 50 percent of what we can offer since opening yet. There’s more to come.”

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