2-time defending WPIAL girls champ, Quaker Valley golf teammates have title aspirations

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Sunday, September 5, 2021 | 11:01 AM


For Eva Bulger, family reunions are a who’s who of accomplished WPIAL athletes. And she may just end up being the most decorated of them all.

Bulger, a junior golfer at Quaker Valley, has won two straight WPIAL Girls Class 2A individual titles and has designs on a three-peat. She also is part of the Quakers’ successful boys team, as the school does not field a girls squad.

Bulger’s uncle, Marc, played quarterback at Central Catholic and West Virginia before spending a decade in the NFL. Her aunts, Meg and Kate, shined in basketball at Oakland Catholic and are both in WVU’s Hall of Fame.

Her dad, Jim, played golf at Central Catholic and her grandfather, also named Jim, played quarterback at Notre Dame. On top of that, Bulger’s siblings are all active in sports. She has a sister and four brothers, including Connery, Quaker Valley football’s starting quarterback, and Aidan, a 2020 grad who excelled in golf.

“It’s nice to be surrounded by athletes and people who know what they’re doing and can give advice,” Bulger said. “But golf is so much different (than basketball and football). In the mental aspect though, with being decisive, it’s the same.”

In 2019, Bulger took home Girls Class 2A gold with a 10-over par score of 82 at Diamond Run. A year later, she improved her winning score by five strokes.

“(2020) was a difficult year because I wasn’t in school because of covid,” she said. “It was weird. But I got to play a lot of golf, so that was nice. Winning WPIALs, it really wasn’t anything. It was just like another day on the golf course. I played it like any other round, one shot at a time.”

Quaker Valley’s boys golf coach, Greg Vecchi, has been continually impressed with Bulger’s commitment to the game.

“Her practice, her drive makes her so talented,” he said. “You’re not going to find many student athletes, mid-week, in the summer, in the sand trap, practicing shot after shot.

“She’s so steady. It’s strange to me how a young person can be steady like that.”

Bulger will have a future in the sport, that’s certain. She’s yet to look at any schools and is focusing on improving many aspects of her game in 2021.

“Honestly, everything,” she said. “Short game is really important. You don’t have to hit it far if you have a good short game. I’m just trying to work on my game all-around.”

Bulger is joined at Quaker Valley by two younger girls who are just beginning their paths in golf, as well as Vecchi’s boys team, which is coming of an impressive 2020 season in which it won the Section 9-2A title over eight-time defending WPIAL champion Sewickley Academy, which turned around and upended the Quakers in the district team finals. Quaker Valley took silver.

“It was a tremendous year with the section title outright,” Vecchi said. “That had been a long time coming against powerful Sewickley Academy. The WPIAL title was within our grasp, but we just didn’t have our day there.

“It’s definitely fueled us, thinking about what we can do different to have a different result. Most of the players have stepped up their summer play to get better than they were last year. Everyone is on the same page, and everyone is hungry.”

The boys team will have to replace its top finisher in last year’s WPIAL Class 2A individual finals, Luke Melisko, who placed seventh overall.

But returning are three golfers who ranked in the top 30 in the event.

Kyle Rice placed ninth a year ago and was the third-best finisher among non-seniors.

“He loves the game. He doesn’t stop.” Vecchi said of the senior. “He’s just a nice, laid-back kid. But when he’s on the course, it’s just all about that shot in front of him. He’s so focused.”

Senior Adam Tanabe, who placed 14th overall at individuals, and Jackson Budd, who placed 30th as a sophomore, are expected to be premier contenders for the team. Junior Adam Renner has made big strides in the offseason as well.

“We had nine guys who worked into the (lineup) last year,” Vecchi added. “(Renner) was one of those nine, but now he’s definitely solidified himself in the top six.”

Vecchi is excited about a freshman, Ethan Dai, who he describes as “remarkable.” Dai shot a nine-hole score of 36 in a win over OLSH already this season.

“The older kids definitely respect his game,” Vecchi noted. “He became part of our team on day one.”

Knowing it will take a complete effort to topple the Panthers, not only in the regular season, but come playoff time, Vecchi likes the look of his group, and their odds.

“Our golfers are really strong, all-around,” he said. “For high school golfers, I can’t ask too much more from them. They have it already. They’re feeding off each other.”

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