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.
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.
“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.”