Hampton golf team in race for the top

Friday, September 20, 2019 | 8:46 AM

The Hampton golf team came into the year with potential depth issues. Those issues were answered and now, it’s the same race to the top as usual for the Talbots and Shady Side Academy.

SSA got the best of Hampton the first time around with a 20-stroke victory at Fox Chapel Golf Club early this season, but the Talbots (10-3, 8-1) have been steady in continuing to win all of their other section contests and will hope for a home course victory Wednesday at Wildwood Golf Club.

“I think we have a shot on our home course, but they’re awfully good,” coach Bruce Steckel said. “They’ve got some kids that know how to play golf.”

Steckel highlighted the experience of playing such a beautiful and challenging course at Fox Chapel. Part of it is to simply smell the roses a little.

“When you get a chance to go to Fox Chapel and play, I told the kids to just enjoy yourselves and have a good time,” he said. “We had a couple that played pretty good, but some, that place just overwhelms them.”

Unfortunately for Hampton, the only individual with a shot at a WPIAL championship is team ace Matthew Rozumberka.

The rest of the team came up short at WPIAL sectional qualifiers Sept. 17 at Suncrest Golf Club, where the target score was 81.

Senior Harry Hamlin missed the cut by one stroke, junior Robert Leppert by two and sophomore Jake Twerdok by five.

“I’m glad to see they played pretty well,” Steckel said. “When you start playing for scores, that’s hard. Some of these kids get to (No.) 17 and they realize they couldn’t make it unless they eagled the last two holes. That’s demoralizing.”

Twerdok, the expected No. 2, struggled a bit earlier in the year, but is expected to improve.

“As soon as you go back to school, numbers creep up a bit,” Steckel said. “There’s a lot of golf here in the last three weeks. But he actually played well (at sectionals). I was pleased. He’s looking better at this point. I’m going to need all of them if we’re going to get to the playoffs.”

Hampton may not have a shot at a seventh consecutive playoff berth were it not for its depth rounding into form. Going into the season, Steckel was concerned about the sixth golfer — the last one — to fill out the starting lineup.

Enter junior Robert Leppert, who suffered a neck injury his freshman year, followed by a knee injury last year.

“This year I was skeptical, but he’s played really well.” Said Steckel. “He’s moved steadily up (the depth chart), and he’s played most of the matches. He’s a nice kid, and I’m very pleased he’s turned out to be that sixth guy.”

It’s not just all guys on the team, however. Junior Arianna Erka qualified for the WPIAL championships for the second year in a row with a brilliant round of 1-over-par 73 at the Section 4-AAA qualifier Wednesday at Hiland Golf Course.

“She’s kicked it into gear and has confidence,” Steckel said.

Last year, Rozumberka found a backdoor into the WPIAL tournament as an alternate but did not compete. This year, after a slow start, film study based on his own recruiting video lent him a helping hand.

“We shot some video of him when he was struggling,” Steckel said. “I think that helped. He actually saw it and took something from it. That changed him around a little bit and changed his attitude. I think he could be one of the best, along with a couple of the Shady Side boys, in the section.”


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