The Central League golf race always seems to come down to Conestoga and Radnor, as it did last year when Kevin Pechin’s Pioneers edged Andy Achenbach’s Raiders, 189-194, at Waynesborough Country Club.
It was the third straight Central title for Conestoga, even though the Radnor lineup was bolstered by the assimilation of the Radnor girls into a coed team. That night not be much of a help at some schools, but in Radnor’s case it brought junior Brynn Walker into the mix during a season in she would ultimately become Delco’s third PIAA girls golf champion in six years.
So it’s likely that the Central League championship will be decided when Radnor and Conestoga meet Tuesday, Sept. 29 at St. Davids Golf Club.
Walker, who will be seeking to become a repeat PIAA Class AAA champion in the postseason of her senior year, and junior Michael Sydnes will make a strong 1-2 punch at the top of the Radnor lineup. But the bigger story at Radnor may be an influx of talented youngsters that, down the line, may make the Raiders a contender for team honors at the District One level and beyond. Radnor won the inaugural state team championship in 2006.
Radnor has three freshmen, Jake Calamaro, younger brother of Radnor’s 2009 PIAA girls champion Jackie Calamaro, David Colleran and Blake Stephano who are regularly making their scores count in the Raiders’ matches. All three have honed their games on the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour and in Golf Association of Philadelphia junior events.
Walker is still a big part of the plan at Radnor this fall. She showed what kind of player she is with a 2-under 33 at her home course at St. Davids in a match against Marple Newtown. But she wasn’t Radnor’s medalist in that match. That honor went to Colleran, a freshman playing in his first high school match who went Walker one better with a 3-under 32.
Walker isn’t the only standout female player on the Radnor roster either. Junior Gabby Kim has been competing in American Junior Golf Association events and missed the cut to reach the Class AAA East Regional by seven shots last year as a sophomore.
Other returnees who can jump up and be counted for Radnor are Minwood Kwak, Peter Civitella, Kevin Seits, Jacob Liberman, Chris Austen and Conor Rinehart.
When the postseason gets under way, the spotlight will be on Walker. After struggling at the District One Tournament last fall, the North Carolina commit won the Class AAA East Regional at Golden Oaks Golf Club and then claimed the PIAA crown a week later with a dramatic birdie on the first hole of a playoff with Canon-McMillan senior Lauren Waller at the Heritage Hills Resort. The state title made Walker an easy choice as the 2014-15 Daily Times Player of the Year.
In the midst of that scholastic postseason, Walker and her pal, Council Rock North’s Madelein Herr, qualified for the inaugural U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship, to be held in May at the Bandon Dunes Resort in Bandon, Ore.
When May arrived, the District One all-stars got on a serious roll, qualifying for match play and making it all the way to the semifinals before falling. They even got some face time in Fox Sports 1’s first foray into the United States Golf Association coverage the network paid for so handsomely.
Herr, a Penn State commit, might turn out to be Walker’s biggest rival on the postseason trail this fall. That run to the semifinals in May also means the team is exempt from qualifying for the 2016 Four-Ball, which will be held at the Streamsong Resort in Streamsong, Fla.
Walker, Aurora Kan, the 2010 PIAA champion and three-time Daily Times Player of the Year at Chichester who had an outstanding career at Purdue, will comprise two-thirds of the Pennsylvania entry in the USGA Women’s State Team Championship, which gets under way Thursday at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Walker’s first foray into USGA competition came in 2013 when she was a member of the Pennsylvania team in the Women’s State Team Championship at NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio. The trip to Missouri will mark her fifth USGA event.
Walker didn’t quite have the dream summer she had in 2014 when she qualified for both the U.S. Girls’ Junior and the U.S. Women’s Amateur, but she did qualify for the PGA Junior Championship and played all 72 holes at Miramont Country Club in College Station, Texas. She also posted three top finishes in AJGA events in the last six weeks.
Marple Newtown has a strong player at the top of its lineup in senior Joey DelFranco, who finished in a tie for second at the Central League Tournament a year ago. He has been appearing on Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour leaderboards all summer, including a victory last week at Spring-Ford Country Club.
Dominic Frassinelli’s lineup also includes seniors Matt Deacon, Tom Weir and Mike Shevlin. DelFranco’s sister Devon is expected to contribute and hopes to be a factor in the postseason when she competes with the girls.
Garnet Valley is led by seniors Mike Argibay, Noah Highfill, Matt Hoppe, Alyssa McMullen, Francine Ng and Panos Skoutelas. A strong junior class includes Jimmy Gillespie, Mason Hudock, Pat Finn, Luke Finnell and Stephen Hoffman.
Also battling for lineup spots on Doug Grande’s team are sophomores Andrew Briner, Kunal Gupta, Sean Kelly, Billy Vinci and freshmen Greg Vasalopous and Lee Wheeler.
Strath Haven is led by a trio of seniors, Chris Byrd, Anders Camp and Alex Brown. Sophomore Ben Newlon has been playing well in the early going. Rounding out the lineup are seniors Sam Riches, Wil Bozentka and juniors DJ Shelton and Chris Dirienzi. Sophomore Lauren Butscher was a regular on the Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour this summer and has counted for Kevin Kochersperger’s Panthers in a couple of matches already this season.
Upper Darby is led by seniors Vince Lucchesi and Mike Wolf. Wolf was also very active on the Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour this summer. Senior Sean Walsh and juniors Hunter Taylor and Thomas Reif are other top returnees for Jon McGarry’s team. Sophomore Connor McCabe has been making steady progress.
Tom Lallone stepped down after more than two decades as the head coach at Haverford High. Two teachers in the district, Nate Oxman and Greg Decina, are teaming up to take over the program. Oxman is an assistant caddiemaster at Merion Golf Club and Decina has spent some time looping at the site of five U.S. Opens, most recently in 2013.
The Fords are led by senior Frankie McVeigh, a Llanerch Country Club member and a four-year varsity performer. Senior Matt Speers is one of the scholastic players who has seen his game improve after receiving a fellowship at Rolling Green Golf Club that allows him to play a lot of golf at the site of the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur. Senior Brendan Boas will also contribute.
A couple of juniors, Matt Druce and Nate Kader, have played well in the first couple weeks of the season. There’s also some talent among the younger team members like sophomores Emmett Fox and Dave Auerbach and freshman Holden Ungvary.
With Lallone stepping down at Haverford, Springfield’s Jim Heller is the dean of Central League coaches. Heller got some bad news this summer when his top returning player, Andrew Todaro, had surgery to repair a broken finger suffered during baseball season and was lost to the Cougars for golf season.
Springfield returns Josh Luchon and the Baum twins, Derrick and Dillion. Derrick Baum was a district qualifier last season. Freshman Reed Curtis has been showing some promise in the early going.
Ridley is led by returning district qualifier Greg Myers. The Green Raiders have been getting contributions from Ricky VanVladricken, Chris Durning, Eric Magro, Marc Pecko, Tommy Loftus and Devon Tavani in the early going.
Penncrest’s top players in the first two weeks have been TJ May, Dillon Armstrong, Drew Jacobs, Drew Rogers, Dan Arsenault and Jessica Davis.
Jack Glacken loses two-time All-Delco Quinn Dolan at Bonner-Prendergast. The Friars will be led this year by senior Brian Kilroy, a four-year starter who had a subpar round in a match against league power La Salle on its home course, Whitemarsh Valley Country Club.
The lineup is bolstered by juniors Pat Lord, Joe Dougherty, Chris Huyette and Corey McGrenera. Freshmen Rob Dougherty and Dylan Williams are showing promise.
One of the top players in the Catholic League is Cardinal O’Hara senior Alec Kerr, who like Speers at Haverford High, has taken advantage of a Rolling Green fellowship to improve his game. Kerr made a big statement about the state of his game when he fired a 6-under 29 on the front nine at Paxon Hollow Country Club in the Lions’ match with Hallahan Tuesday.
John Caramanico’s Lions also have senior Andrew Hamilton, a foursome of juniors in Greg Manning, Kevin Lutz, Matt McCuen and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Sophomore Kayla Abt is hoping to earn a berth in the District 12 girls tournament.
Mike Owsik, an Archbishop Carroll grad and the proprietor of the M Golf Range in Newtown Square, is in his second year guiding the Patriots. Carroll is led by senior James O’Toole and junior Harry Lownes.
Del Val League
The best player in the Del Val is Chichester sophomore Caprian Kan, who appeared on Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour leaderboards all summer. Kan missed the cut to qualify for the second round of the District One Class AAA Tournament by three shots last year and will be hoping to take that next step and maybe beyond this fall.
Kan was the medalist in Chichester’s narrow 261-263 loss to Interboro last week with a sparkling 3-over 39 at Rock Manor Golf Club. Rounding out the roster for Brad Messick’s Eagles are seniors Nico Lelli, Dalton Kelly, Mike Franzini, Andrew Ung and Keith Kozak and sophomore Alec Lindley.
Interboro was led in that match against Chichester by Billy Hallinan, who had a 41. The other scorers for the Bucs were Mike Huber, Shawn Flynn, Jimmy Tansey and Wyatt McDevitt.
At Glen Mills, Steve Natale returns senior Will Fulkerson. Another senior who has been contributing for the Battlin’ Bulls is Anthony Esplana.
At Sun Valley, Rick Barry is still looking for his first state qualifier since Braden Shattuck was the 2011-2012 Daily Times Player of the Year. Sun Valley also faces the challenge of competing in the very tough Ches-Mont League.
The Vanguards are led by seniors Mike Costigan and Colin Mullen and juniors Kevin Bailey, Jared Cavacini and Bredan Seleyo. Sun Valley’s top newcomers are Brooke Kempcynski, Jay Donnelly and George Closs.
Haverford School finally prevailed in an absolute dogfight with Malvern Prep for the Inter-Ac title last fall. Gui Costin loses All-Delco Otis Baker and Jay Losty from that team, but returns the most talented high school boy in Delco in senior Max Siegfried.
The Aronimink Golf Club member and returning All-Delco played consistently well all summer, but was left frustrated by some runnerup finishes and a failure to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Saucon Valley Country Club’s J.T. Barker caught Siegfried at the Jock McKenzie Memorial and forced a playoff in the race for the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Harry Hammond Award. They played Friday, both shot sparkling 1-under 71s at Sandy Run Country Club and Barker birdied the first hole of sudden death to take the title. It was that kind of summer for Siegfried.
Still, it looks like Siegfried’s consistency will be rewarded with the GAP Junior Player of the Year Award, keeping it in the Haverford School family for a fifth straight year. Cole Berman, the two-time Daily Times Player of the Year, was the Junior Player of the Year for three straight years and Ted Brennan, who completed his Villanova career last spring, won it the year before that.
Siegfried will lead a young, but talented team. Peter Garno was just an eighth-grader when he finished 16th in the Inter-Ac point standings compiled from the six league mini-tournaments and placed 11th in dreadful weather at the Inter-Ac Tournament last fall.
Speaking of talented youngsters, Episcopal Academy is picking up several members of a wave of boys in eighth and ninth grades in this area who have flashed some serious potential this summer.
The Churchmen, who finished third in the most competitive scholastic golf league in Pennsylvania a year ago, are led by senior co-captains Scott McConnell and Cole Testaiuti. Junior Matt Marino fired a 38 at Merion Golf Club’s West Course to lead the way as Episcopal took down reigning PIAA Class AAA team champion St. Joseph’s Prep, 240-257, last week.
Episcopal’s second-best score that day came from freshman Michael Zeng, who had a 39.
Also on the roster are junior Michael Wilkinson and sophomores Jon Perry, Trevor Paolone, Cortie Fischer and Ashton Dunn. Perry finished ninth in the final Inter-Ac individual rankings and tied for fourth at the Inter-Ac tourney as a freshman last fall.
And there is more young talent on the roster, including Michael Zeng’s brother Jacob and Case Hummer, both eighth-graders who were making noise in GAP Junior-Junior events this summer, and J.R. Rauscher, another freshman.
Malvern Prep will be led by sophomore Matthew Davis, an Aronimink member and younger brother of former Malvern standout Michael Davis. The Friars have a talented freshman, too, in Overbrook Golf Club’s Andrew Curran. I’m also hearing that the Friars might have another very talented freshman coming into the program in John Updike, who has really put up some impressive scores on the Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour for the last three summers.
The Central League Tournament will be held Monday, Oct. 5 at Turtle Creek Golf Club.
A week later, Monday, Oct. 12, the girls will open their District One Tournament at Gilbertsville Golf Club while play in the boys district tourney gets started at the Turtle. The district tourneys for the girls and the boys will conclude at the Turtle the following day, Tuesday, Oct. 13.
The PIAA East Regional will be tee off Monday, Oct. 19 at Golden Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood.
Then it will be back to the Heritage Hills Resort in Springettsbury, York County for the PIAA Tournament Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 26 and 27. The PIAA will crown its team champions Wednesday, Oct. 28, again at Heritage Hills.
The Catholic League Tournament will be held Tuesday, Oct. 6 at Melrose Country Club.