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Shane DeVincenzo

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.”

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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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Vin Miceli sizes up his opponent this past season. Photo from Mike Maletta

Although the Port Jefferson wrestling team once again fell short of its goal of a League VII title, plenty of Royals will still see action this weekend — and stepping onto the podium would mean a trip up to Albany at the end of the month for a chance at an individual state crown.

“We have a group of seniors that have been working hard all season,” head coach Mike Maletta said. “It’s still yet to be seen where they’ll end this season, and it all comes down to the next two weeks.”

Matteo DeVincenzo stands atop the podium after his first-place finish at the Eastern States tournament. Photo from Port Jefferson school district
Matteo DeVincenzo stands atop the podium after his first-place finish at the Eastern States tournament. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

The Royals squad ended the year at 5-2 in conference play, suffering a loss to undefeated Mattituck/Greenport/Southold on Jan. 6 and a close 37-36 loss to Bayport-Blue Point in the final league dual meet of the regular season on Jan. 22. The team also beat Hampton Bays, 64-15, in a nonleague meet that didn’t count toward that record.

“We didn’t go 8-0 because we’re missing some of our heavier guys,” Maletta said about the team’s run.

But the team did have success in multiple tournaments.

On Jan. 9, the team took first place by outscoring 14 opponents at the David Sorenson Memorial Invitational held at Long Island Lutheran in Brookville. At the same tournament, teammates Vin Miceli, Joe Evangelista and Matteo DeVincenzo took first-place wins in their individual weight classes.

A week afterward, DeVincenzo took his second first-place crown at the Eastern States Classic, held at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake. To earn his latest title, DeVincenzo defeated three other state champions from a field of 60 wrestlers. Simultaneously, he was voted Champion of Champions by his peers.

The Royals also won the LuHi Tournament, a separate tournament at Long Island Lutheran High School, in mid-January.

“We don’t fill out all of our weight classes, so for us to win a tournament means that our guys who were in the tournament wrestled real solid,” Maletta said. “We’ve had steady wrestling all year from guys like sophomore returning county champion Vin Miceli [and] sophomore returning All-County wrestler Joe Evangelista, and seniors Sterling Nenninger, Dallas Brett and Alex Frohnen have done a great job winning and placing in tournaments.”

Joe Evangelista controls his opponent. Photo from Mike Maletta
Joe Evangelista controls his opponent. Photo from Mike Maletta

Jack Collins also placed in two tournaments and freshman 99-pounder Ricky D’Elia won a tournament, while 106-pounder Robby Williams placed in four this season.

“We’re pretty solid from 99 up to 152 pounds,” Maletta said. “The biggest happy surprise has been Rick D’Elia at 99 pounds, how he has over 20 wins as a ninth-grader. He’s gotten valuable experience, he’s undefeated in the league, so the goal is for him to be heading upstate and getting some even more valuable experience in Albany.”

DeVincenzo’s winning season continued when the graduating senior, who will be attending Princeton University in the fall, set a school record of 141 career wins during the Armstrong Cup, held in Port Jefferson on Jan. 30.

DeVincenzo is now a four-time Armstrong Cup champion, which according to Maletta has never been done before by any wrestler. He surpassed brother Tristin DeVincenzo’s win record of 137 wins in his first match there. He’s undefeated right now with a 29-0 record, and plans to remain undefeated at the end of the month, stepping atop the podium at the state championship.

Matteo DeVincenzo may have a unique trip upstate. According to Maletta, his senior star, who is a three-time county champion, state champion and All-State wrestler, may see a familiar face in his weight class — a wrestler who defeated him in the 99-pound final in his freshman year.

“It would be fitting if they meet in the finals this year, and I have all the confidence that Matteo can top him,” Maletta said. “Coach Ian Schneider and Coach Nick Miceli and myself are just enjoying the ride right now. Very few coaches get to coach an athlete like Matteo, so we’re aware of it, and we’re going to enjoy the next month.”

Rick D’Elia competes in his final match of the LuHi Tournament. Photo from Mike Maletta
Rick D’Elia competes in his final match of the LuHi Tournament. Photo from Mike Maletta

For now, Port Jefferson is sending numerous athletes to the Section XI Division II championship on Feb. 13 at Center Moriches High School.

Other wrestlers competing will be Brendan Rogers, James Laffey, Shane DeVincenzo, Joe Longo, Dylan Berger, Brian Webb, Matt Murphy, Joe Collins, Pedro Nobrega, Chris Lepore, Ryan Walsh and Harry Cona.

“We might not be able to outpace some of the other teams that can fill up the brackets with their athletes, but we’re looking to come away with a group of champions that’s going to make Port Jeff proud,” Maletta said.

Two years ago, Port Jefferson sent a record five wrestlers to the state tournament. Last year, the team dropped back a little, sending three, but the head coach is looking to send another handful of guys back to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championship on Feb. 26 and 27.

“We’re excited about moving forward,” Maletta said. “We countdown in practice because we have to enjoy the time together, because we don’t have much longer. They’ll always be my boys, my athletes, my kids. I’m looking forward to enjoying the next week and hopefully extending it further into the end of February. It’s been a good journey.”