Deanna Confessore achieved her dream of making the Harborfields High School varsity golf team last month.
The boys golf team, that is. At the age of 12.
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"It's always been in my head, 'Am I going to do this one day?' " said Confessore, a seventh-grader from Greenlawn who attends Oldfield Middle School. "I want to show them I can play," she said of her male teammates. "I don't really care if they beat me or I beat them. I'm here and I can be up to your level."
At a hair under 5 feet and weighing 85 pounds, she's about a foot shorter and 100 pounds lighter than most of her teammates. She routinely drives 180 yards, and has maxed out at over 200, good for her size and weight, and she still has some ways to go. But "it looks like she's been playing her whole life," team captain Jeremy Schwartz said.
It was her drive and confidence that led Confessore to attend tryouts for the boys team the week of March 4, but it was her sweet, fluid swing that made first-year coach Brian Dolan keep her around. Confessore made the team, beating out other female golfers and a handful of male high school hopefuls.
"Her form is really what sets her apart," said Dolan during a team practice at Northport's Crab Meadow Golf Course. "She had a good swing and she's very mature for her age."
Confessore can play with the boys because Harborfields does not have a girls golf team. Also, students in seventh grade and older are allowed to play on senior high school teams.
The Tornadoes have had a handful of girls on past teams, including one last year, Schwartz said. No one, though, can recall one as young as Confessore.
Her serious demeanor "and focus for the game" make her seem fearless, senior Mike Carillo said. "She's playing with older guys who she doesn't even see in school and she's going out there with her head held high, hitting shots right down the middle of the fairway . . . " said Carillo, pointing to Confessore's long drive, "Like that one right there. With her pink ball."
Added Carillo: "She showed me up on a few holes, I'm not going to lie."
The respect for her technique goes deep. "I've never seen a seventh-grader, girl or boy, with that good of a swing," said teammate Nate Flanzenbaum. And when Flanzenbaum found out that three of his good friends had been cut during tryouts, but Confessore hadn't, he told his coach, "Good, she should have made the team,' " Dolan said.
Confessore, who is averaging in the high 40s to low 50s over nine holes, began golfing when her father, Dean, brought her to the golf course as a young child. She was fascinated by the golf channel, he said, and when she eventually attended LPGA events and met her idols in 2009, "It was like going to Disney and seeing your favorite character," he said.
Though she often played recreationally, the Confessore family explored competitive options around the age of 10. Finding a girls youth league was a challenge, Dean said, "and it opened my eyes at how difficult it was for girls.
"You want to play Little League as a boy? It's easy. You want to play golf as a boy? It's easy. Now you put a girl in this situation and it's like, why is this so difficult?" he said.
The family eventually discovered the Metropolitan First Tee, in Eisenhower Park, which caters to both young boys and girls. Confessore has been competing since 2010.
One day, she'd like to play in college and join the pro ladies' tour, she said. Until then, Confessore plans to make her mark on the Harborfields world.
"I don't want you to judge me because I'm a girl," she said. "I'm on a varsity team. I'm small, but I can beat you."
Harborfields High School golf team
Grade: Seventh, at Oldfield Middle School, Greenlawn
Placed first in three Metropolitan PGA Junior Golf tour events last. Also four second-place finishes in 10 events.
Ranked as an Eagle at Metropolitan First Tee based in Eisenhower Park. Only Eagle Ace is higher.
Since she started competing in 2010, she's placed first at Gull Haven three times, twice at Sumpwams and once at Maidstone.
Her best round was at Bethpage Red, where she shot a 46.
Favorite golfer: Paula Creamer, who is known as "The Pink Panther." Confessore wears pink and uses a pink golf ball.