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Nov 1, 2018 5:27 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Brooks Wins Playoff At Counties To Become First Pierson Golfer To Qualify For States; East Hampton's Foster Places Second, Also Qualifies

Pierson junior Henry Brooks qualified for states on Wednesday through a playoff for the ninth and final spot. DREW BUDD
Nov 5, 2018 4:50 PM

There always seems to be a one-hole playoff at the Section XI Boys Golf Championship, whether it be for the overall winner or one of the top nine placements in order to advance to the state tournament.

Port Jefferson senior Shane DiVencenzo shot a two-day total of 143 to win the Suffolk County individual title outright for the second consecutive season on October 28 at Rock Hill Golf and Country Club in Manorville, so the playoff wasn’t going to come from that part of the two-day tournament. Like last year, DiVencenzo held off East Hampton senior Turner Foster, who finished second in the county with a 150.

With 164 being the cut-off for the top nine placements, it looked as if Pierson junior Henry Brooks was going to grab the ninth and final spot. That was until the final group came in and Commack’s Brad Castaldy also had a 164, so he and Brooks were going to be this year’s one-hole playoff from hole 10 to see who was going to the state tournament at Cornell University in June.

Brooks hit his opening drive straight down the fairway about two yards farther than Castaldy, who hit his second shot onto the green but about 20 feet from the pin. Brooks was able to get his second shot on the fringe before the green, then stuck his third shot right next to the hole for what would be an easy putt. Castaldy’s putt on his third shot blew way past the hole, giving Brooks the wide-open opportunity to win with an easy tap-in, and that’s exactly what he did, becoming the first ever Pierson golfer in its 60-year-plus history to qualify for states.

Brooks said he was both amazed and nervous about the playoff hole. His solid drive off of 10 calmed him down a bit, he said.

“It’s surreal,” he said. “When I made the putt at the end, I don’t even know how to describe the moment. It was crazy.”

Like many of the golfers on the second day of the tournament, Brooks did not play well on the front nine, with a 46, but he shaved 10 shots off that score on the back nine, which tied him with Connetquot’s Kyle Zere for the third lowest back-nine score on the day. Only Foster (34) and DiVencenzo (35) played better.

There was a point during the tournament when Pierson head coach Clint Schulman was unsure if Brooks was going to even finish in the top 20 to earn All-County honors, but that push on the back nine proved to be the difference.

“He and I talked a lot in the offseason,” Schulman said of Brooks. “We knew it was going to be a rebuild for the program, but I had told him his focus this season should be on qualifying for states. And his season started off rough, but he definitely got it going after the first couple of matches.”

Brooks will be joining Foster, who, with his second-place finish, qualified for states for the third consecutive season. Foster and Connetquot’s Tyler Zere were just two shots (75) behind DiVencenzo (73) after the first day of the tournament on October 27, but Foster double-bogeyed his first hole the following day and continued to play poorly on the front nine before picking things up and finishing with the second best score on the back nine.

“I just wasn’t really hitting it solid,” on the front nine, Foster explained. “I was hitting everything left. On the back nine I kind of figured out why I was hitting it left. I fixed up a couple of things and got it back together and ended up finishing 2-under on the back, so that helped a lot.”

East Hampton head coach Rich King was proud of the way Foster fought through the second day of the tournament.

“He could have easily played as poorly as he did on the front, on the back, and finish maybe seventh or eighth instead of second,” he said. “I thought he did a good job of showing some toughness.

“Shane didn’t really give him a chance, didn’t give him a window to step through,” King added. “He made every shot, every putt he needed to, and [Foster] just dug too deep a hole after the front nine.”

Foster and Brooks will now need to stay on top of their game in the eight months leading up to the New York State Championships, which aren’t until June 1 at Cornell University. Foster, who missed the state meet last year so he could play in a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Open that was played at Shinnecock Hills, will continue to play at Maidstone Golf Club in East Hampton, where his father, Eden Foster, is the head golf professional. Brooks said he will continue to work at The Bridge in Bridgehampton, where he’s played a lot over the past few years. He’ll have to make time for golf while also playing varsity basketball and baseball in the winter and spring.

“I’ve worked with Jeff Warne at The Bridge quite a bit. He’s probably going to be the one I turn to,” Brooks said. “They’ve helped me with my game there as much as anyone.

“I’m going to have to play as much as I can in the offseason if I want to reach my goal and become All-State,” he said. “But I guess I don’t really have an offseason anymore.”

Westhampton Beach juniors Cole Federico and Mackenzie Kim finished just outside of the top nine, but they did finish in the top 20 to earn All-County status. Federico finished 11th with a 166 two-day total while Kim finished 13th at 169. Southampton freshman Jack Blackmore was the only other South Fork golfer to shoot under the 85 cut and reach the second day of the tournament. He finished with a 172, missing All-County honors by just two shots.

The Mariners were the top League VIII team at counties. They shot a team total of 452 on the first day with their top six, which was 19 shots better than Westhampton Beach, 25 shots better than East Hampton and 26 better than Pierson. Westhampton Beach head coach Fred Musumeci was happy for Federico and Kim’s accomplishment of becoming All-County, but he was a little disappointed with how his team did overall, after it won the Conference IV Championships last week and placed fourth at counties last year and fifth the year before that. He thought it had a good shot to at least place in the top six again, but it finished outside the top 10.

“It’s like a punch in the gut,” he said. “We set high expectations, but considering everything, we exceeded all expectations. This was a rebuilding year for us, so it definitely was a good season.”

One of the surprises of the tournament was East Hampton senior Nate Wright—regarded by many, golfers and coaches, as one of the top players in the county—who didn’t qualify for the second day. He double-bogeyed 18 and it ended up costing him.

“There were many shots left out there on the course, but it was all the more painful and made it sting a lot more that it happened on the last hole,” King said. “I knew he had intentions of trying to make it to the state tournament. Speaking to him afterward, he just felt like he didn’t play well that day.”

Now starts a long offseason for those who will not be going to the state tournament. A few of the South Fork teams will be in rebuild mode. Foster and Wright will be graduating from East Hampton, which had an eighth-grader and two seventh-graders in its starting lineup. Longtime golfer Sean Noonan will be graduating from Hampton Bays along with Joe Sapio and Gavin Grismer. Westhampton Beach will have its entire starting lineup back except for Richard Tiska, who is graduating, and Pierson will have most of its starting lineup back as well, losing just one key starter, Cooper Schiavoni, to graduation.

Southampton is in an interesting position, having now gone through two years of its rebuild since graduating a number of players, including Christian Oakley. The Mariners will lose Cole Yasztremski and Luke Cullum to graduation but they return their entire starting lineup and could be on the upswing.

“Things are starting to develop and fall into place,” Southampton head coach Tim Schreck said. “We should be quite strong next season and for the next few years to come. I think it’s fair to say the difficulties of the rebuilding process are done for us where others are just beginning it.”

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