With all the talented underclassmen populating the Inter-Ac League rosters this fall, maybe it took a senior to understand how much every shot mattered.
You could point to any number of shots made or not made when the margin of victory was as close as it was. But maybe it was just as simple as Episcopal Academy senior Matt Marino, the only senior on the Churchmen’s varsity roster, making a birdie putt on the final hole at Gulph Mills Golf Club Wednesday.
It gave Marino a 38, Episcopal’s low score of the day. And when all the numbers were counted, the Churchmen had edged Haverford School, the host team for the final Inter-Ac mini-tournament of the season, by a single shot. And that edge was enough to give the Churchmen their first Inter-Ac title since 1999, when the Inter-Ac still played in the spring, when Episcopal was still on the Lower Merion side of City Line Avenue.
Marino led Episcopal to a 242 total with Haverford School a shot back in second at 243. Malvern Prep finished third at 249, Penn Charter was fourth at 257, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy was fifth at 279 and Germantown Academy was sixth at 284.
Going into the final mini-tournament, it was apparent that any team from among Episcopal, Haverford School, Malvern Prep and Penn Charter that could earn a clean sweep at Gulph Mills would claim the title.
Episcopal’s one-shot margin of victory enabled it to finish 22-7-1 with Haverford School in second at 22-8. Malvern Prep put up a valiant title defense in finishing third at 19-10-1, Penn Charter was fourth at 19-11, Germantown Academy was fifth at 4-26 and Springside Chestnut Hill was sixth at 3-27.
Marino’s fellow Waynesborough Country Club member, junior Jon Perry added a 39 for Episcopal. Junior Cole Kemmerer and sophomore Michael Zeng each posted a 40, freshman Jacob Zeng carded a 41 and junior Ashton Dunn and freshman Case Hummer each came in at 44. The top six scores count, so Episcopal was able to toss one of the 44s.
Perry was Episcopal’s low man a day earlier with a 36 when the Churchmen hosted a mini-tournament at Merion Golf Club’s West Course. The Churchmen managed a tie for a third with Malvern Prep and that tie also proved to be crucial toward the eventual outcome in the league standings.
Haverford School was led by Sam Walker, who was the overall medalist for the second day in a row with a 35. Walker also had a 35 at Tuesday’s mini-tournament at Merion West. The Fords also got a 40 from Tyler Roland and a 41 from Andreas Aivazoglou.
Malvern Prep was led by junior Matt Davis, who had a 37. Senior Gavin Sims had a 39, sophomores Matt Civitella and John Updike each carded a 42, sophomore Andrew Curran had a 44 and senior Nick Miller had a 45.
Penn Charter’s 1-2 punch of juniors Brian Isztwan and Noah Schwartz posted rounds of 38 and 39, respectively.
Isztwan finished atop the individual Inter-Ac rankings with a 248-24-10 record. Entering the final two mini-tournaments locked in a tense battle with Malvern Prep’s Updike, the reigning Pennsylvania Junior Boys’ champion, Isztwan pulled away with two solid rounds.
The rankings determine the automatic qualifiers for next week’s Bert Linton Memorial Inter-Ac individual championship, but they also measure the most consistent performers throughout the six mini-tournaments that make up the Inter-Ac regular season. And Isztwan emerged as the No. 1 performer in probably the most competitive scholastic golf league in Pennsylvania.
Perry’s two solid rounds enabled him to sneak past Updike into second with a 222-37-23 mark. Updike slipped to third with a 219-50-13 mark. Haverford School’s Walker was fourth at 218-43-21 and Penn Charter’s Schwartz rounded out the top five in fifth at 213-54-15.
The Bert Linton Memorial will determine the Inter-Ac’s individual champion and will be played Thursday at Aronimink Golf Club with players teeing off No. 10 beginning at 12:15 a.m. The top 18 finishers in the season-long rankings are in the field and the league coaches will pick six wild cards.
Episcopal’s depth is evident by the Churchmen’s six automatic qualifiers: Perry, Marino, Kemmerer, the Zeng brothers and Ashton Dunn.
Malvern Prep’s Updike and Davis will have a little bit of a home-course advantage in that they are two of top junior players at Aronimink, the Donald Ross gem that will play host to the PGA Tour’s BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup playoff event, in 2018.