Derry’s Hunter Jurica adds WPIAL golf title to list of accomplishments

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022 | 8:05 PM


The kid with the bucket hat keeps crossing things off his bucket list.

Hunter Jurica won the Ligonier Country Club championship, a Westmoreland County Coaches Association title and a section title earlier this season.

Now, the Derry senior golfer can add a WPIAL championship.

“Honestly, I was such a big choker. I choked so many times,” Jurica said with a laugh. “I haven’t won much. But the club and county championships really gave me confidence. To get it done here today … it means a lot.”

Jurica shot a 7-over-par 78 in the final round of the Class 2A championship Tuesday at famed Oakmont Country Club to become Derry’s first golf champion, finishing three shots better than Brownsville junior Daniel Sethman with a total of 11-over 152.

The Class 2A title wasn’t decided until the 34th hole as first-round co-leaders Jurica and Sethman worked to gain separation. The pair came in tied at 4-over after matching 74s in the opening round a week ago at Hannastown Golf Club.

Sethman, who closed with an 81, hit his tee shot on the par-3 16th into the right greenside bunker and took two shots to get out.

He went on to make a triple-bogey six, which followed a bogey on 15, giving Jurica a three-shot lead heading to No. 17.

“That was a three-shot swing there in three holes,” Jurica said.

Sethman, who tied for fifth last year, said, “Sixteen decided it all.”

Momentum started to build for Jurica down the stretch. After punching out on 14, he chipped on and managed a nice up-and-down for par.

He then hit a 320-yard drive on the par-4 15th and made another par, while Sethman three-putted for a five.

“I crushed the ball,” Jurica said. “I had an 8- or 9-iron in.

“It was back-and-forth all day. It was almost like a high school match. I like to call myself very committed (to shots), and that is how I played today.”

Sethman, who finished at 14-over 155, said Oakmont’s tilted pool table greens were a challenge.

“There were so many putts that I thought were going in, and they would roll by five feet,” he said. “It made it exhausting.

“(Jurica’s) putting was so good.”

Patient after he finally grabbed the lead, Jurica made a bogey on 17, but then piped another tee ball down the middle of the 18th fairway. He hit his approach to 10 feet and two-putted to close out the win.

Family, coaches and friends greeted him with hugs and high-fives as a light rain fell.

“It’s long overdue for us,” Derry coach Tracey Smeltzer said. “Hunter has that drive and dedication. He hits 500 balls a day. He won here today, but he wants to represent Derry and his teammates. It’s not just about him.

“For Derry, this is big. It’s special. These are the moments you hope for.”

The trademark bucket hat that Jurica has worn every round since his sophomore year was a little wet as he walked off the course. He took it off so WPIAL golf chairman Jim Croushore could drape the gold medal over his head and around his neck, then put it back on for some photos.

“I am shy in school, but when I put on my bucket hat on the golf course, I feel like a different person,” Jurica said. “It gives me my mojo.”

Jurica made one birdie, at the uphill, par-5 ninth. He shot 74 in a practice round.

Speaking of practice rounds, Oakmont and its members made sure all 36 players had access to a practice round.

Junior Liam Lohr of Carmichaels finished third at 15-over 156, Frazier junior Nixen Erdely was fourth at 157, while Uniontown junior Logan Voytish, Quaker Valley senior Jackson Bould and sophomore Ethan Dai of Quaker Valley tied for fifth at 160.

Erdely had the low round at Oakmont with a 77.

The top 18 finishers advance to the PIAA championship Oct. 17-18 at Penn State (Blue Course).

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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