The Penn State men’s and women’s golf teams got the spring portion of their 2017-’18 seasons started earlier this month. I can be forgiven for missing the action Super Bowl Sunday and for a couple of days afterward as this lifelong Eagles fan was in a state of shock that my Birds had actually won a Super Bowl.
The Penn State men, coming off two straight tournament wins to close out the fall portion of their schedule and hoping to repeat last spring’s trip to the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms, opened the spring with their Athletic Director’s Trophy competition against an old regional foe in West Virginia.
The Nittany Lions, No. 39 in the latest Golfstat rankings, are in the Big 10 these days and the Mountaineers are part of the tough Southeastern Conference, but once upon a time, the schools were two of the top Eastern independents.
Teeing it up on Super Bowl Sunday at the Reunion Resort’s Watson Course, a 7,154-yard, par-72 layout in Kissimmee, Fla., Penn State retained the Athletic Director’s Trophy in a series that was reinstated a year ago after a long absence with a 363-378 victory.
Penn State was led by Charles Huntzinger, a junior from Duluth, Ga. who fired a 3-under 69, the best score recorded by any player on either team.
Senior Cole Miller, a Northwestern Lehigh product who captured the individual title in last spring’s NCAA Washington Regional, carded a solid 1-over 73, a total that was matched by teammate Daniel Martinez, a freshman from Austin, Texas.
Junior Ryan Dornes, who lost in a playoff to Pennsbury’s Vinay Ramesh in the 2014 PIAA Class AAA Championship as a senior at Manheim Township, carded a 2-over 74 and that total was matched by teammate Ryan Davis, the sophomore from Berkeley Heights, N.J. who performed so admirably as a freshman during the Nittany Lions’ postseason run a year ago.
Alec Bard, a sophomore from New Hartford, N.Y., rounded out the Penn State contingent with an 81.
The Athletic Director’s Trophy event was a tuneup for last weekend’s Big Ten Match Play Championship at the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, Fla.
Penn State ended up in fourth place after falling to 92nd-ranked Wisconsin, 4-2, in a battle for third place Saturday at Hammock Beach’s Ocean Course.
Huntzinger and Martinez won their matches to account for the Nittany Lions’ points.
Earlier Saturday, Penn State claimed a 4-2 victory over 48th-ranked Michigan State in matches shortened to nine holes due to a two-hour fog delay. The Spartans would go on to reach the final and shared the title with Purdue after their match with the Boilermakers finished in a tie.
Highlighting the Penn State effort against Michigan State was a 1-up victory for Dornes over James Piot, a freshman from Canton, Mich., the third straight match win for Dornes.
Other winners for Penn State were Miller, Davis and Bard.
Weather issues delayed Penn State’s arrival in Florida Thursday and the Lions were unable to get in a practice round at Hammock Beach’s Conservatory Course, where Friday’s opening matches were held.
That may have had a little to do with Penn State’s 5-1 setback at the hands of Indiana, ranked 103rd. Dornes was the Nittany Lions’ lone winner with a 4 and 2 decision over Jack Sparrow, a redshirt junior from Floyds Knobs, Ind.
But Penn State bounced back with a solid 5.5-.5 victory over Rutgers in the afternoon, highlighted by Dornes’ 1-up victory over Tony Jiang, a sophomore from Bradenton, Fla.
Penn State also got victories from Miller, Huntzinger, Bard and Martinez.
Penn State will need to protect that No. 39 ranking and maybe move up a little to make sure it gets a nod when the NCAA regional bids go out. But Greg Nye’s Nittany Lions certainly validated their NCAA regional berth last spring by reaching the NCAA Championship.
The Penn State women, whose core is comprised of a foursome of recent Pennsylvania high school standouts, are No. 56 in the latest Golfstat rankings and face an uphill, but hardly impossible road to an NCAA regional bid.
Coming off a strong fall campaign, Denise St. Pierre’s team opened the spring by teeing it up in the UCF Challenge at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., which wrapped up Feb. 6.
Penn State struggled in its opening round Super Bowl Sunday with a 303, but improved with a 295 in the second round and a solid 2-over 290 in the final round for a 24-over-par 888 total that left the Nittany Lions tied for ninth with SMU in the 16-team field.
The top individual finisher for Penn State was junior Cara Basso, who captured the 2012 PIAA Class AA crown as a sophomore at Villa Maria Academy. Basso had a final round of 1-under 71 over the 6,349-yard, par-72 Eagle Creek layout to finish tied for 16th at 4-over 220.
Junior Lauren Waller, the PIAA Class AAA runnerup in 2014 as a senior at Canon-McMillan, matched Basso’s final-round 71 to finish tied for 24th at 222.
Junior Jackie Rogowicz, a two-time PIAA runnerup during an outstanding scholastic career at Pennsbury, had a final round of 1-over 73 to finish a shot behind Waller in a tie for 29th at 223. Sophomore Madelein Herr, the 2015 District One Class AAA champion as a senior at Council Rock North, finished up with a 75 to end up tied for 36th at 224.
Those four have been consistently top performers for Penn State with several other players battling it out for the No. 5 spot in the lineup.
At the UCF Challenge, the fifth was Kamerine Taylor, a junior from Dublin, Ohio who finished tied for 80th at 235 after a final-round 79.
St. Pierre brought two of her younger players along to Orlando to compete as individuals.
Sophomore Megan McLean, a Voorhees High product, posted a solid 1-over 73 in the final round for a 229 total that left her tied for 67th. Freshman Olivia Zambruno, the 2016 PIAA Class AA champion as a senior at Greensburg Central Catholic, finished 87th after a final-round 82.
No. 41 Miami, getting a solid 1-2 finish in the individual standings, cruised to the team title with a 4-over 868 total. After opening with a 295, the Hurricanes fired a 3-under 285 in the middle round and matched par in the final round with a 288.
No. 38 East Carolina finished strong with a 5-under 283 to claim runnerup honors at 8-over 872, four shots behind Miami.
Miami’s Dewi Weber, a junior from the Netherlands, was the individual champion, her 7-under 209 total highlighted by a blistering 6-under 66 in the middle round. Teammate Renate Grinstad, a sophomore from Norway, was the runnerup, six shots behind Weber at 1-under 215 total.
Miami also got a solid showing from Kristyna Frydlova, a freshman from the Czech Republic who finished tied for 12th at 3-over 219 after a solid final round of 2-under 70.
No. 34 Auburn finished third at 14-over 878, six shots behind East Carolina. No. 29 Vanderbilt and No. 27 Wisconsin shared fourth place at 16-over 880.
No. 26 Iowa State finished sixth, another shot behind Vanderbilt and Wisconsin at 17-over 881. The Cyclones backed that showing up with a solid runnerup finish to No. 4 Arkansas in the Lady Puerto Rico Classic that I chronicled on the blog earlier this week.