Palmer Jackson could not take the putter out of his bag soon enough during Tuesday's WPIAL Class AAA semifinal tournament.
“I hit the ball well,” the Franklin Regional junior said, “but every putt I looked at went in. It's a really awesome feeling when that happens.”
And Jackson followed the hot flatstick to a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 on a low-scoring day at Donegal Highlands to take medalist honors in the tournament for the second year in a row.
He advances to the WPIAL finals Oct. 3 at Nemacolin Country Club in Beallsville.
The top 18 finishers at each of two semifinal sites qualified for the championship. The qualifiers at Donegal Highlands averaged 73.7 on the 6,350-yard course.
Jackson continued to stay in red numbers for the season. The round marked his second 4-under performance in the postseason. Earlier this season, he shot 5-under 31 during a nine-hole team match at Meadowink.
All told, he is an astonishing 16-under for the season with three eagles and 29 birdies.
“I feel like I am going to shoot under par every time I play,” said Jackson, who made four birdies, at Nos. 2, 5, 11 and 18. “I have been playing really well. I knew what to do and what clubs to hit. The front nine here is so open, you can just blast it. The back nine is narrow so you have to hit the right spots.”
Jackson doesn't just dissect courses with his driver and short irons. He also picks them apart with his mind.
“He prepares himself incredibly well,” Panthers coach Jeff Trapenhagen said. “He is one of the most observant people I have ever seen. He'll be playing a hole and know that a teammate two-putted a couple holes over.”
Senior Ethan Yohe, Jackson's teammate, also qualified for the finals after a 1-over 73. Jackson and Yohe give Franklin Regional momentum heading into Wednesday's match at Fox Chapel. The winner goes to the playoffs. The loser doesn't.
The lefty Yohe exorcised demons after last year's semifinal when he shot 34-54 (88) and watched the finals drive away in his rearview mirror.
He made the turn Tuesday in … yikes … 34, “But I knew I was OK when I hit my drive on 10,” Yohe said. “I birdied 10 so I was in good shape. I figured I would have to shoot under 75 (to advance).”
Yohe also made four birdies and bogeyed 18.
Other area qualifiers included Penn-Trafford junior Cade Patterson (73) and Latrobe junior Brady Pevarnik (73).
Patterson will head to the finals for the first time.
“I followed my notes pretty well today,” Patterson said. “I played smart and stayed with my game plan. I hit a lot of 4-iron off the tee on the back nine to play it safe. I have been on a hot streak lately.”
Three players finished under par Tuesday, including Shaler's Tanner Grzegorczyk (69) and Hunter Bruce of Peters Township (71).
At the other semifinal tournament at The Links at Spring Church, Greensburg Salem junior Jack Oberdorf tied for fourth with a 73 to advance to the finals.
Central Catholic's Neal Shipley shot 1-under 69 to finish first.