Looking to Dethrone WPIAL Golf Champions

Keith Barnes, Tri-State Sports & News Service, Post-Gazette Online, August 9, 2019

Central Catholic has won the past three WPIAL Class 3A team golf titles, but every year, Fox Chapel has been right there until the end.

In 2016 and 2018, the Foxes finished second to the Vikings in the finals at Cedarbrook and, in 2017, had their opportunity to wrest the title from Central Catholic end the day before when several team members were involved in a car accident and were unable to play.

This year, though, Fox Chapel might finally have enough to supplant the Vikings and claim its first title since 2006.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this season than I have the past,” Fox Chapel coach Bryan Deal said. “It’s just we’re so close and we just keep trying to get better every day. Hopefully we’ll be able to get over the hump here soon.”

The past three years, Central Catholic was led by a solid group, including 2018 WPIAL Class 3A individual champion Jimmy Meyers and runner-up Neal Shipley. Both players, along with five other key members of the team, have graduated leaving only one starter, senior Palmer Cuny, remaining from the squad that also won the state title last year.

“Obviously we’re starting fresh with some unfamiliar faces, kids that came up from the junior varsity and incoming freshmen and obviously we don’t know what tryouts [Monday] are going to bring us,” Central Catholic coach Corey O’Connor said. “But we knew it was going to be tough to replace those players because they were great players. It’s going to be tough with a whole new team, but we’re always up for the challenge.”

Central Catholic wasn’t the only school that lost its top player. Fox Chapel graduated a WPIAL champion of its own in Gregor Meyer, while its section rival Franklin Regional— which failed to make the team playoffs after it finished third to the Vikings and Foxes each of the past three years — bid adieu to Palmer Jackson. The Notre Dame recruit finished tied for ninth in the U.S. Junior Amateur last weekend.

“I would definitely put an exclamation point on that, that was one of the best graduating classes in the WPIAL,” Deal said. “Our section has three of the top five in the state last year, our kids were great, the Central kids were phenomenal, you had Brady Pevarnik from Latrobe, just some phenomenal talent from one class.”

With those players gone, however, a new crop is ready to step in.

Fox Chapel has two players, senior Scott Bitar and junior Aiden Oerhle, who are the top returning individual finishers from last year’s WPIAL finals at Oakmont. Penn-Trafford has a solid foundation to build on with eighth-place finisher junior Alex Turowski, while South Fayette senior Luke Lestini is the WPIAL’s best returning finisher from the state finals where he came in tied for 16th.

Whichever player wins the individual title this year, though, will not be able to celebrate in the shadow of the clubhouse at Oakmont. The WPIAL has opted to move the finals from the venerable course across the Hulton Bridge to Fox Chapel Golf Club.

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