On a beautiful, sunny day that was perfect for a round of golf, the Foxes boys golf team won the PIAA Class AAA championships on October 23 like no other team had before them. They not only won the tournament for the first time in Fox Chapel Area history, they also set a new state team scoring record. Additionally, senior Scott Bitar and junior Aidan Oehrle shot a pair of two-under par, 69s and tied for first place among the 30 players who represented six teams in the 3A team finals. It was a victory that had been a long time in the making, not only for nine-year Coach Bryan Deal, but for the many coaches and golfers before them.
As Coach Deal said, “We didn’t just win, we won with an exclamation mark.”
The team ended up with the low score of 284, and dominated the course all day long, from the moment Aidan birdied his first hole, until they learned they had beat Unionville High School’s 2017 record of 292 and shattered the previous team record by eight strokes. This year’s runner-up, Cumberland Valley, was a distant second with a score of 308.
“Reflecting back to even a couple of weeks before the tournament, the players had tremendous focus, commitment, and the perfect demeanor and mindset,” says Coach Deal. “They knew preparation was critical and followed our game plan precisely in the practice rounds. On the day of the championship, I could just see the determination in their eyes. Their exceptional discipline got the results we wanted. We had the lowest four scores of the entire day.”
Junior Aidan Oehrle, who topped the leader board at 69 with teammate and senior Scott Bitar, says, “It was probably the most amazing feeling I’ve ever felt. When I found out we won, I actually jumped into my teammates’ arms with such relief. After being through so much with this team, being so close so many times, and finally getting it done, not to mention breaking the record by eight shots and winning by 24, it was just amazing.
“There was definitely a lot of pressure and high expectations placed on all of us because we were the favorites. But we all have so much trust in each other, and everyone was playing great golf, so we knew that we would step up and accomplish whatever needed to be done. I am extremely proud to say we are state champions.”
For Scott, it was a day of redemption after he had a disheartening finish at the PIAA Class AAA individual championship. Coach Deal says it was a tremendous show of character and moxy for him to come back in such a commanding way after playing 36 holes the two days prior.
“We discussed it that evening and I told him he has a ‘C’ on his chest (captain) for a reason,” says Coach Deal. “Wednesday morning, he was ready to go. To be able to come back when his team needed him the most – that’s what Scotty is all about.”
The other men who also played that day – seniors Will Livingston, Matt Mattioli, and Amani D’Ambrosio – also contributed in big ways.
“Will had the round of his high school career,” adds Coach Deal, who also won a state championship when he was a high school football coach in Ohio. “He is someone who has tremendous talent but hasn’t always been as consistent as he would have liked. But to shoot a 72, one over par, and end up third among all of the 3A team finalists, was impressive.”
“I had never played the course before our practice rounds,” Will adds. “I hadn’t changed my swing or anything, I was just concentrating on eliminating mistakes. In practice rounds, we talked a lot about playing the course smart and we were successful because of it.”
Matt and Amani also were big forces in the team’s win.
Matt, the medalist of the Richard Cullinan Tournament earlier in the season, shot a 74, three over par, and he was as determined as anyone to bring home the team gold medal. For Amani, although he had two bad holes and didn’t shoot his best in the state final, his contributions to the team’s success throughout the season have been well documented. Had it not been for his impressive performance, three under par at 69 at the WPIAL Class AAA Championships, which they won, the team would not have even been in York, PA, for the state event.
Other contributors to the team’s success throughout the season and playoff run included seniors Brevin Urso, Arnold Vento and Jack Flanagan. The team could not have accomplished winning the WPIAL and PIAA Team Championships without their performance, commitment and dedication to the golf program.
“Yesterday was a day that everyone will remember forever,” says the coach. “The bond among these boys is something that will last forever. When they come back to the school 20 years from now, they can show their kids their pictures on the Wall of Fame and tell them all about the team and the day they won the state championship.”