After roster shuffle, Hampton golf team has young but talented lineup

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Saturday, August 27, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Hampton lost its top golfer to a prep school in New England but gained a No. 1 golfer from a private school in Fox Chapel.

Junior Peter Kramer, a Shady Side Academy transfer, has helped ease the sting of losing 2021 WPIAL Class 3A qualifier Dan Venture, who left Hampton to concentrate on hockey at Westminster School in Simsbury, Conn.

“We’re on the young side. Let’s put it that way,” coach Bruce Steckel said. “But we have talent. It just depends on how we put it all together and how fast they learn.”

Kramer went to Hampton through middle school before attending Shady Side Academy for the past two years, helping the school’s boys basketball team to the WPIAL Class 3A title last March. The left-handed Kramer transferred back to Hampton to be reunited with his childhood friends after his older brother, Alex, graduated from Shady Side Academy this past spring.

Steckel, in his 10th season, said he is happy to have Kramer on the Talbots, instead of playing for section foe Shady Side Academy.

“In both matches against us (last season), he just killed us,” Steckel said. “I knew him as the Hampton killer. … When I had gotten word that he was transferring back in, I’m like, ‘Why is that name familiar?’ Then I realized that’s who that was. Needless to say, we’re glad to see him on our side.”

Kramer, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard in basketball, joins three top returnees for the Talbots — junior Matt Erka, who last season reached the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals, junior Robert Coll and sophomore Tyler Schmitt, who shot a team-best 36 in a 212-219 loss to Shady Side Academy on Aug. 18.

Erka is motivated to reach the WPIAL finals this season after shooting a disappointing 90 in the 2021 WPIAL Class 3A semifinals. He spent the summer correcting a hook off the tee, the remnant of his baseball season and the differing swings.

“My driving was definitely not where I wanted it to be,” the 6-1, 155-pound pitcher/outfielder said. “Since baseball, I had trouble with a hook. I had to really work on that and transfer over from baseball to golf. I tried to keep my hands more straight. I kept rolling over my wrist a little bit too early. But my drives are straighter. This year it’s been looking pretty good.”

Junior Avish Vyas, another lefty, is also expected to be a top five golfer for the Talbots, who were 0-3 heading into an Aug. 23 match against visiting Shaler at Wildwood Country Club.

Other golfers who will see increased roles include Joey O’Donnell, the Talbots’ lone senior; junior Samantha Shaughnessy, the only girl on the roster; and freshman Rin Suyama, a promising youngster who qualified for the PGA Jr. League 13-and-under national championship in October in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“We definitely have the talent,” Erka said. “We are more on the younger side.”

The Talbots went 8-4 in Section 8-3A (8-7 overall) last season but were no match for section powerhouses Fox Chapel and Shady Side Academy. The section has a new look this season, welcoming defending WPIAL Class 2A champion North Catholic along with neighboring Shaler. They replace Freeport, Kiski Area and Knoch.

“This will be a lot more competition than we’ve seen,” Steckel said, “which is good.”

If the Talbots reach the WPIAL team playoffs — something they achieved in each of Steckel’s first seven seasons before missing the past two years — they will be without Kramer. The WPIAL last month ruled him ineligible for the postseason in golf and basketball. According to PIAA rules, if an athlete transfers after competing in a sport as a sophomore, he or she is ineligible to play in the postseason in that sport, regardless of why they transferred.

Kramer is also ineligible for this year’s WPIAL individual golf tournaments, which begin with the Section 8-3A qualifiers Sept. 19 at Saxon G.C.

“I don’t really understand that,” Erka said.

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