Franklin Regional’s Jackson, Latrobe’s Pevarnik set sights on WPIAL, PIAA golf titles

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018 | 6:12 PM


Palmer vs. Brady.

Brady vs. Palmer.

A high school golf rivalry could reach its climax in the coming months when a pair of talented senior players from Westmoreland County set out to win WPIAL and PIAA championships.

The season opens Thursday.

Surprisingly, neither Palmer Jackson of Franklin Regional nor Brady Pevarnik of Latrobe has hoisted a trophy yet at the high school level, but both have been painfully close.

Pevarnik finished second in the WPIAL Class AAA last fall after losing in a playoff to Moon’s Chris Sabol. Jackson was third, just two shots back. He went on to tie for second — one a shot — in the PIAA championship.

As freshmen, Pevarnik was third and Jackson, fourth, in the WPIAL, and both carded top-10 finishes at states. As sophomores, they tied for 10th in the WPIAL finals at storied Oakmont Country Club, while Pevarnik was a WPIAL-best third and Jackson tied for ninth at the state tournament.

Pevarnik just missed qualifying for the PIAA championship last year.

While the confident friends with ties to the great Arnold Palmer agree all the classic ingredients for a rivalry are present, Jackson and Pevarnik don’t focus on simply one-upping one another. They want to see the other do well but not at the expense of a title they both want to win.

“I have developed a very friendly rivalry with him,” said Pevarnik, a Penn State recruit. “He is one of my good friends, but I also love competing against him.”

Jackson has a number of Division I scholarship offers, some in the ACC and Big Ten, he said, and still is deciding when to make his decision.

He talked about doing so before the fall season.

“We’ve been playing together for awhile and know each other’s games,” Jackson said. “We’re friends, but we always want to beat each other.”

Jackson has put together a productive summer while taking his game to a new level of competition. He played in the Junior PGA Championship at Valhalla (Ky.) and the U.S. Amateur at famed Pebble Beach, the latter while the rest of his team was enduring tryouts.

The WPIAL Class AAA championship, expected to have a stacked field, returns to storied Oakmont on Oct. 2.

“High school golf can be tricky,” Jackson said. “You go out and try to crush it every hole, but you have to change your thinking a little bit. You can’t go out and just try to dominate.”

Franklin Regional coach Jeff Traphagen said Jackson refers to the high school season as “a bonus.”

Traphagen said Jackson still has to ramp up his game to face some of the better teams in the WPIAL, like Fox Chapel, Central Catholic and Latrobe.

“It seems like every time I see him play summer events, he gets excited about having fun playing the game,” the coach said. “And now playing with his classmates and teammates adds some extra familiarity and fun.”

Pevarnik’s game also has been sharp. He won the Westmoreland County Amateur and played in the WPGA Williamson Cup matches. He was on back-to-back winning teams.

“I always expect to win,” Pevarnik said, “so to win a WPIAL and state title to finish off my high school career is my goal.”

Bill Beckner is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bill at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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