High school golfers ready for the KSAC season

By Kenn Staub

For the CLARION NEWS

CLARION

While other Keystone Shortway Athletic Conference (KSAC) sports are still in preseason, golf officially gets underway later this week.

The boys tee it up on Friday (August 16) at Clarion Oaks Golf Club, the first of nine KSAC megamatches in 2019. Though not recognized by the conference as an official team sport due to the limited number of squads, the KSAC girls play the first of their six to eight scheduled female-only events Thursday morning (August 15) at Foxburg Country Club.

Defending KSAC champion Clarion-Limestone (C-L) returns three of its top four golfers from a season ago. Leading the way for the Lions is reining KSAC MVP Hayden Siegel. In 2018 the junior was the only Clarion County player to advance through the District 9 tournament and qualify for the Western Pennsylvania Regionals. Siegel led the KSAC with a 40.89 scoring average, posting top 10 finishes in each of the nine megamatches, winning four.

Lions' golfer Hayden Callen was the fifth ranked golfer in the KSAC a season ago courtesy of his 43.67 scoring average. Callen posted six top 10s as a sophomore, including two wins. Senior Kaden Park was right behind Callen in sixth (45.56 scoring average). He finished in the top 10 at five megamatches, posting one win. Both Callen and Park were All-KSAC first-teamers and qualified for the 2018 District 9 tournament

"Our top three will match up with any team in the KSAC," reported C-L coach Jason Craig. This said, Craig knows that for his squad to reclaim the conference championship the Lions are going to need other players to step up and fill the 4-6 spots in the line-up. Looking to do just that will be Ian Larson, Sydney Simpson, Braden Smith and Brady Henry.

Larson, a senior, transferred to C-L from Keystone. As a Panther last season he put up a 52.00 scoring average and qualified for the District 9 tournament. The squad's only female, Simpson, a junior, played in three boys' megamatches during 2018. Because C-L does not have a school-recognized girls' team, she may also compete as an independent in the female-only events this year. Smith, a sophomore, competed in three megamatches for the Lions last season. Henry is a freshman.

Noted Craig, "Once the season starts, the matches happen very quickly. For this reason it is very important that the players are already playing at a high level. Like every other team, early season success depends on how much their players played through the summer."

Volunteer assistant Greg Grant provides an extra set of eyes for the Lions' linksters on the driving range and putting green.

Last year the Clarion Bobcats were KSAC runner-ups. Like the Lions, the Bobcats return three golfers who qualified for the District 9 tournament in 2018. Senior Josh Craig led Clarion with a 43.44 scoring average. The All-KSAC first teamer had seven top 10 finishes, including a win at the season opener.

Sophomore Jackson Fox (45.78) and senior Lake Staub (46.00) were members of the All-KSAC second team, as well as district qualifiers along with Craig. Fox and Staub both had seven top 10 finishes in 2018, with Fox a megamatch co-medalist.

"Lake, Jackson, and Josh have put a lot of time in at the golf course over the summer practicing and working on their game. I'm very confident that they are going to have another strong season. We are looking for them to be leaders," said Bobcat coach Jay Kerle.

Similar to C-L's Craig, Kerle will also be looking for others on the team to slot into the final three positions, noting that those occupying these spots might change from match-to-match. Senior Mitch Geiger (51.22) and sophomore Cam Lapinto (56.56) were both mainstays in the Bobcat line-up a season ago. Vying for playing time will be newcomer, senior Kyle Porciello.

The Bobcats also have a large contingent of female players who, because Clarion does not have a school-recognized girls' team, will play at six female-only events on an independent basis. These include seniors Rachel Howard, Maya Patterson, and Amanda Matus, sophomores Lauren Winters and Olivia Kiser, and freshmen McKayla Kerle and Allison Acey. It is possible that one or more could earn a varsity spot and compete in the boys' megamatches at various times throughout the coming season.

Jackie Kerle is the Bobcats' assistant coach, putting in considerable work with the female players. Dave Brueck volunteers with the team, regularly helping the golfers on the range and course.

Coach Mindy Hess's Keystone Panthers will be anchored by trio of returning seniors, Nate Ion, Ian Apel, and, Justin Weaver.

Ion was the only golfer of the Panther three who played in all nine of 2018's megamatches. He had a 57.13 scoring average. Weaver (63.29) played in seven megamatches and Apel (54.50) six. Hess noted each played over the summer and that she anticipates improved scoring averages this season.

Looking to claim megamatch spots will be returnees Drew Young, Owen Easton, Colin Say, and Alex Huffman. Easton (59.57) and Say (62.86) both participated in seven megamatches last year, while Huffman played in two.

"I'm also excited about a big group of freshman on the team this year. They won big as a junior high team and I can't wait to see how they do this season," Hess reported. The frosh newcomers include Taylor Rupp, Aldon Jacques, Noah Standish, Tanner Vickers, Tyler Weaver, and Peyton Chapman.

Keystone does field a school-recognized girls' team that will be competing in the female-only events. Returners Ally Rogers, Bri-Anna Leadbetter, and Becca Lander will be joined by freshmen Paige Matthews and Molly Ellenberger. Ellenberger is a North Clarion student playing with Keystone as part of the newly formed co-op between the schools.

Hess is aided by first year assistant Brett Vaughn, who in his short time with the team has already had a positive impact.

New A-C Valley head coach Mike Weigle will be counting on junior Broc Weigle and senior Austin Cratty to lead the young Falcons' squad. Weigle managed two top 10 finishes last season and led the team with a 50.63 scoring average. He qualified for districts but did not compete. Cratty competed in two events a year ago.

"We expect a good season from Weigle and Cratty. They are both strong off the tee and with decent fairway play. Weigle has a nice touch around the greens. With a little work and practice we expect Cratty to gain that short game feel that he needs to keep his scores down," said the elder Weigle.

Sophomores Chase Wenner (61.13) and Archer Ferris (76.00) both represented the Falcons in eight megamatches. Freshmen Max Southworth and Sam Morganti round out the team. Morganti is a Union student golfing for the Falcons, the result of the co-op between the two.

Bill Jordan and Bob Bowser will assist Weigle in providing instruction on the team's points of emphasis, getting off the tee box and increased confidence on the greens.

Jessica Jordan, the new girls' golf coach at AC Valley, is eager to work with her player on building skills and seeing how the season unfolds. Thus far there are two players on the girls' roster, junior Allysa Leith and freshman Evie Bliss. Bliss attends Union.

This year the District 9 boys' golf tournament will be played at the Punxsutawney Country Club on Sept. 23 and Sept. 28.

The girls' district tournament, which all female competitors are eligible to qualify for, will be played on Sept. 30 at Pinecrest Country Club in Brookville.