Gateway boys golf progresses under Doonan

Sunday, September 17, 2017 | 5:36 PM

First-year Gateway boys golf coach Paul Doonan had a bit of slow start to his rookie season as the Gators coach. First, August's solar eclipse cancelled his coaching debut, and Mother Nature and dropped some rain to further stall the Doonan era. Hardly ideal circumstances.

The Gateway (5-5, 4-5) boys have yet to play their best round of golf, but that's not to say their best is far away. The Gators are coming off a week when they beat Section 4-AAAA rivals Woodland Hills and Penn Hills. Gateway also picked up a nonconference win over Connellsville before falling to one of the top teams in the Section 4-AAAA, Fox Chapel.

The team came together pretty quickly. Five days prior to the eclipse, Doonan, who is back coaching after a 10-year layoff, had his Gators out at Murrysville Golf Club competing to make the five-player lineup.

“I picked out the roster a few days after tryouts, and I did make a few cuts,” he said. “I actually have a team playoff once every seven to 10 days, and I re-seed the roster and top eight get to play in the next couple of matches.”

Doonan said he's amazed at how far advanced some of the younger WPIAL golfers are.

“There's some well polished golfers out there,” he said. “They're so young, I just can't believe it. Ninth-graders, even, and they hardly make any mistakes.”

Marc Caggiano has improved the most since Doonan took over. Doonan points to Caggiano's eagle at Murrysville Golf Club's hole No. 5 as a breakthrough. He said that hole has done wonders for the junior's game and has given him a boost of confidence.

“He's really now thinking of par at every hole,” Doonan said. “He's eliminated some mistakes and really is turning his game around.”

Doonan recruited senior Mike Vojnik, a baseball player, to join the team, and Vojnik secured a spot in the starting five.

Jason Reber, the lone returning starter from a year ago, is averaging a 43 through nine matches this season.

Doonan is interested to see how Reber performs as he missed out qualifying for sectionals last season by one stroke.

Ryan Margolis holds down the No. 2 spot with his 44 average followed by Caggiano (46), Vojnik (49) and Jacob Valentine (49).

With top-flight programs such as Central Catholic and Franklin Regional on deck, Doonan said his Gators are far away from competing with some of the top programs in Class AAAA, but he also said his team isn't far away, either. If Gateway beats rival Plum, Doonan thinks the Gators can nudge their way into a top-four finish in Section 4-AAAA and set the stage for next season.

“We really, at the moment, are only going to lose one starter next year,” Doonan said. “The kids are already talking about next year.”

William Whalen is a freelance writer.


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