By Mike Dudurich, Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM – Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich
The WPGA has retained Mike Dudurich to write a blog for its website. The opinions and observations contained within are his own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the Association.
Things couldn’t have worked out better for the WPGA when the Pennsylvania State Women’s Golf Association’s Amateur and Senior Amateur Championship came to Sewickley Heights Golf Club.
Jeannette native Katie Miller won the Amateur title for the second time (the other came in 2007) and Carol Semple Thompson won the Senior Amateur title for the first time. Of course, she’s won 22 Amateur titles, too.
Both women came from behind in their final matches. Miller was down two holes after the 13th, but made birdies on 16, 17 and 18 to win by two.
Thompson came to the 18th hole down one, but won that hole and won the first playoff hole as well to grab the title.
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Whenever the word “dynasty” is brought up, it always creates discussion as to what really qualifies as a dynasty. In high school golf, the answer is very simple: Peters Township.
The Indians the defending WPIAL Class AAA team champion, has been to the finals 12 times in the last 13 years and have won the title five times.
With the golf season kicking off this week, coach Dave Kuhns’ boys team has a bullseye on it. With five of its top six players returning, PT won the Tri-State Coaches Association tournament already.
Seniors Alec Stopperich, Jake Sollon and Connor Schmidt form the core of the team that finished third in the PIAA tournament last year.
Defending WPIAL champion Anthony Cordero leads a Fox Chapel team that, along with Pine-Richland, Upper St. Clair, Indiana and Latrobe, hopes to make run at Peters Township this fall.
In girls AAA, Central Valley, which won WPIAL and PIAA titles last year, comes in as the favorite. Burgettstown, Neshannock and South Fayette could make runs as well.
In Class AA, Sewickley Academy returns four of six starters and is favored again. Among those returning is Jason Li, the defending PIAA champion and WPGA Junior champion. The Sewickley girls finished as the PIAA runnerup last year and has three of five starters coming back.
Greensburg Central Catholic’s Olivia Zambruno, a junior, enters the season as the WPIAL and PIAA champion. Strong competition is expected from Freeport senior Audrey Clawson, who finished second in the WPIAL and third in the PIAA. Neshannock senior Marissa Kirkwood, fourth in the WPIAL and PIAA, will provide a challenge.
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It was a tough couple days for the West Penn Golf Association team in the 52nd Williamson Cup Matches at Saucon Valley Country Club. The team finished eighth in the 10-team field, 23 shots behind the Metropolitan Golf Association in New York.
Individually, WPGA Junior Champion Jason Li shot rounds of 77-74 – 151; Greensburg’s Mark Goetz had 79-80 – 159; Murrysville’s Jackson Palmer had 81-79 – 160 and Latrobe’s Brady Pevarnik posted 81-80 – 161.
The results weren’t what they were looking for, but don’t forget there were a pair of 14-year-olds (Palmer and Pervarnik) on that team and the other two (Li and Goetz) will likely be eligible to play again next year as well.
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Nathan Smith has played in 34 United States Golf Association events, won four U.S. Mid-Am titles, has played on three Walker Cup teams and, after scoring the winning points for Team USA in 2013, was widely heralded as a can’t-miss Walker Cup captain in the future.
The Allison Park resident was told repeatedly he was a shoo-in for this year’s team, especially after he and partner Todd White were outstanding in winning the inaugural USGA Four-Ball championship earlier this year. In fact, it was assumed that White and Smith would get the two spots allocated to mid-ams.
But his telephone, as well as White’s, were silent this past Sunday when calls went out to those selected to represent the United States in mid-September.
Those two spots went to Scott Harvey and Mike McCoy. Harvey is in his late 30s, McCoy in his early 50s.
“I was shocked, I really was,” Smith said a day after what can only be described as a major snub.
This brings into consideration the system by which a Walker team is selected – if there is a system.
There have been very few veils of secrecy thicker than the one surrounding this process. The coach doesn’t have a vote and is not privy to much of what goes on behind the curtain.
There is a committee, made up of unknown actors. There is no point system in place and it is said considerable weight is given to how players do in a series of elite tournaments that includes: The Azalea, Porter Cup, Sunnehanna Amateur, Trans Mississippi, Jones Cup, Terra Cotta, Western Amateur and Northeast Amateur.
I was told by someone with some knowledge of the situation that Smith would have other chances to make the team while McCoy’s age might prevent many more chances for him.
All of this makes little sense. There needs to be some transparency into how the team is selected, some standard ranking system that puts everybody on a level playing field.
Speaking of the U.S. Amateur, it wasn’t all that great of an experience for the four Western Pennsylvania players who made it to the U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields in Chicago.
Ryan Prokay of Grove City struggled to scores of 84-75; Christopher Kupniewski of Erie fired 78-77; Garrett Browning of Imperial shot 75-76 and Smith left the Windy City after shooting rounds of 71-74. All three missed the cut.
Smith said it wasn’t like he didn’t try.
“Honestly, I gave it my all. I played really good, but it just wasn’t enough,” said Smith, whose best finish in the Amateur was last year when he made it to the quarterfinals. “These younger kids are just so good, it’s really tough to beat them.”
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Twenty-one senior amateurs will battle for a spot in the U.S. Senior Amateur Thursday at Edgewood Country Club. One of those 21, including strong players like Don Erickson III, Joe Corsi, Paul Schlachter, Jim Bryan and John Benson.
The national tournament will be held Sept. 26-Oct. 1 at Hidden Creek Golf Club in Egg Harbor, N.J.