By Clayton Collier
The Smithtown East girl’s golf team’s undefeated season came to an end last Wednesday when the Bulls fell to Syosset in the Long Island Championship, 421-444, on the Bethpage green at Bethpage State Park.
Juniors Alexa Niven (84) and Cassie Hall (87) led Smithtown East in the loss, while fellow junior Peyton Greco and senior Natalia Schaefer both shot a 39 on the back nine for the Bulls.
Smithtown East was at a noteworthy disadvantage heading into the Long Island Championship, having never played at Bethpage, a location familiar to Syosset. Weather conditions in the days leading up to the contest limited Smithtown East to just a walk-through of the course, rather than having the opportunity to tee off prior to last Wednesday’s championship.
“They never even got to play the course at Bethpage, so that was just unfortunate,” Andrea Niven, Alexa’s mother, said. “That’s not to say that that’s why they lost, but when you’re unfamiliar with the course, I think it takes something out of it a little bit.”
Even with the disappointment of the loss, Hall said she enjoyed playing on a course as nice as Bethpage.
“The course was really beautiful,” she said. “I wish I could’ve played a bit better, but it was still a lot of fun playing and we played against great girls, too.”
Though Smithtown East did fall in the Long Island Championship, the girls’ golf team put up a head-turning performance the previous week en route to capturing the Suffolk County Championship, highlighted by a 78 finish from Niven, who finished second individually in the county. Additionally, Smithtown East broke the county record with an 855 two-day total, eclipsing the previous mark of 859. With the season now finished, the team said they were pleased with the year they put together.
“Overall I thought we had a really successful season,” Greco said. “We had a really strong team again this year and I think it showed in counties. Breaking the previous county total was a pretty amazing accomplishment for us.”
Niven, Hall and Greco will all be back for their senior year, keeping Smithtown East’s top three in their order for another season. Greco said she is looking forward to what lies ahead.
“I think we’re going to have another strong team,” she said. “Our goal is always to win the county championships and then see what happens from there.”
The three rising seniors have played together since middle school. Greco said head coach Bob Woods has been a big factor in helping her to grow as a golfer.
“He keeps me relaxed before counties, because they definitely get my nerves going,” Greco said. “He always tells me to take it one shot at a time and that the only important shot is the one I’m about to hit. He doesn’t just do that for me though, he tells everyone before we play. I use that not only for high school golf, but outside tournaments too, and it really makes a difference.”
In addition to the three, Hall said there are several other golfers to look out for in the 2016 season.
“I think you should be on the lookout for Jen Leddy, she’s a junior but I think she’ll be great next year,” Hall said. “There’s also freshman Sam Klee that played our No. 6 this year, as well as sophomore Jamie Werner and eighth-grader Alexa Lubomski — they would rotate playing No. 6 throughout the year.”
With the season now in the books, the team will have the summer to enjoy before gearing up for next year.
Smithtown East will lose Schaefer to graduation, who will continue her golf career at the collegiate level as she heads to Long Island University Post in the fall.
“I love how close it was to the city for internship opportunities and their business programs were impressive,” Schaefer said. “Being recruited for the golf team really sealed the deal and sold me.”
Overall, Schaefer was thrilled to have ended her high school career with a county championship after the team went 10-0 in League I heading into the postseason.
“It’s been an awesome feeling after being part of the team for so long,” she said. “Having my hard work pay off and sharing it with my coaches and everyone that’s been rooting for me has been an unforgettable experience.”