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.”
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 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.”