Fox Chapel’s Scott Bitar cruises to WPIAL title on home course

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019 | 7:07 PM


Naturally, Scott Bitar felt right at home playing the WPIAL Class AAA championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club where he is a member and the reigning club champion.

The senior from Fox Chapel knows the places to miss, the trouble spots to avoid and the pin placements to respect.

He once shot a 65 on the pristine, 96-year-old course that has hosted numerous USGA and WPGA events and the Constellation Senior Players Championship from 2012-14.

That being said …

“I knew I had to go out and perform and stay present,” Bitar said.

Bitar built an early cushion and nearly tied his career-best round, posting a 4-under-par 66 to cruise to a six-shot victory Tuesday in unseasonably warm conditions at Fox Chapel, which has undergone quite a facelift due to tree removal.

He is the fifth boys golfer from Fox Chapel to win a WPIAL title — the third in the last six years. He joins Gregor Meyer (2016), Anthony Cordaro (2014), Adam Hofmann (2006) and Frank Fuhrer III (1974-76).

“I played super well,” said Bitar, who led by seven at one point. “I started protecting a little bit too much on 16 and 17. I think I got a little nervous. When I saw I had a pretty good lead, it relaxed me a little bit.”

Penn-Trafford junior Alex Turowski finished alone in second place with a 2-over 72, while five players — Shady Side Academy junior Adam Lauer, Fox Chapel junior Aidan Oehrle, Pine-Richland senior Donnie Professori, Central Catholic freshman Rocco Salvitti and junior Scott Jordan of Upper St. Clair — all tied for third at 73.

Bitar carded seven birdies and three bogeys. He made the turn in 32.

He three-putted No. 9 but stuck a 9-iron close on the par-3 11th for a birdie. He also drained a 15-foot par putt on No. 12.

His lead was trimmed to five after misfires on 16 and 17, but nobody seriously threatened Bitar, who played in the final group.

“It’s unbelievable for Scotty,” Fox Chapel coach Bryan Deal said. “A, it couldn’t have happened to a better kid who has prepared and worked on his game like he has, and B, his mental aspect is so steady. He is as focused as I’ve seen him. He’s played in every big tournament he could this summer. He showed a lot of grit.”

Bitar won the WPIAL semifinal tournament at Willowbrook Country Club and was the top returning finisher from last year’s championship at Oakmont Country Club. He was sixth there with a 7-over 78.

Bitar was not watching the live leaderboard or receiving reports on how things stood Tuesday. He had a feeling he was in the mix. Champions can often feel when they’re in command of their game — and the field.

“I didn’t check the leaderboard until 18 tee,” Bitar said. “I didn’t really know where I stood. When I was playing really well, I figured I was at least near the lead or the leader. I didn’t want to check it until later in the round.”

Despite being 3-over after three holes, Turowski thought he posted a decent score but was surprised to learn he had earned a silver medal.

“I didn’t know where I was,” he said. “I asked coach if I was sitting pretty and he said, ‘Yes, keep plugging.’ After my first three holes, I was on cruise control.”

Like many players in the 36-player field, Turowski had only played Fox Chapel once, during a practice round.

“Scott played great and this was his home course,” Turowski said. “I can’t be upset with a solo second on a course I only played twice.”

Franklin Regional junior Chuck Tragesser, the Secton 4 champion, was the pacesetter early. He was 3-under through his first six holes but faded as Bitar made his move.

He shot 74 to tie for eighth.

“I had no idea I was leading,” Tragesser said. “I just tried to make as many birdies as I could. There were some gettable pin locations. After 10, play slowed down and instead of taking a deep breath, I got anxious and frustrated and put myself in some bad positions. I had too many three-putts on the back nine.”

Bitar did not give all the credit to course knowledge. The way he was swinging, he may have gone low anywhere.

“I knew if I played well, I knew I’d have a chance,” Bitar said. “But I’m not the only one. Shady Side plays all their matches here and there are a couple other members who are really good golfers in the WPIAL who belong here. I don’t think it was a super-big advantage, but it definitely helped a lot.”

The top 14 finishers advanced to the PIAA Western Regional tournament Oct. 15 at Tom’s Run Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge Resort in Blairsville.

Other qualifiers are juniors Charles Troutman of Shady Side Academy (74) and Ellian Ascencio of Peters Township (75), and three seniors in Nathan Piatt of Upper St. Clair (75), Luke Lestini of South Fayette (76) and Mario Battaglia of Latrobe (76).

Senior Ryan Robinson was the last man standing in a five-man playoff for the final qualifying spot. The playoff included Robinson, Jeff Mankins of Greensburg Salem, Justin Scally of Moon, Matt Ruzomberka of Hampton and Amani D’Ambrosio of Fox Chapel, all of whom tied at 77.

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

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