The Suffolk D4 All-Stars, who advanced to the PGA Junior Championship in Arizona, finished the tournament with a record of 1-4. It sounds like a disappointing finish, but that one win kept them celebrating.
This squad got their win when they defeated Team Georgia in divisional play by a score of 7.5 to 4.5, a stunning upset considering Georgia came back to win the entire championship.
“I was so shocked to the point of tears that we beat them,” captain Kelley Brooke said. “Our team of little misfits, both nationally and age-wise, could beat this Goliath.”
The story of this team, dubbed “Team New York” for the national competition, starts back in June when the team was first formed by Brooke, a former player and the owner and director of the Golf Channel Academy at Bethpage State Park.
After going through the league process for Suffolk D4, they formed an all-star team with players from the league and started having them practice together to get them prepared to potentially compete beyond Bethpage. The roster consisted of Matthew DiFiore of Malverne, Joseph Dolezal of Old Westbury, Catherine Andino of Port Washington, Bryan Zhao of Jericho, Emerson Stumpf of Plainview, Spencer Cohen of Roslyn Heights, Ryan Nicholson of Smithtown, Cavan Mahler of Sayville, Ayan Sheikh of Commack and Austin Barrett of Farmingville.
“We competed in multiple sectionals in the Bronx,” Brooke said. “We then advanced to the regional which was down in New Jersey. When we won that, we advanced to nationals.”
When they got to Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ, they definitely noticed a difference between them and other teams. While most of the national teams consisted of tall golfers around the age of 14, Team New York consisted of smaller 10 to 12 year olds. The group was also made up of diverse public golfers, while most other players in the tournament came from private golf clubs.
“In terms of the process, teams like Georgia goes out and recruits athletes, some of which are not even from Georgia,” Brooke said. “We didn’t know that was happening. We just formed our little team. But I told them, ‘guys, we’re not playing football against them. We’re playing golf against them. And you can put the ball in the hole just as well as they can.’ And we went out and did it.”
While Brooke’s team could not come back to win a second time the rest of the tournament, they were so thrilled by what they achieved that they didn’t care what happened next.
“We were so satisfied,” said Brooke. “Everywhere we went, we got standing ovations from other parents and players. It was really a special moment for our kids. Golf is a unique sport where size and age doesn’t matter. What matters is your heart and your mental game.”