Hampton golfer Joey O’Donnell caps long road with WPIAL bid

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Saturday, October 8, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Hampton senior Joey O’Donnell’s disappointing 23-over 94 at the WPIAL Class 3A individual golf semifinals was only a letdown if one ignores how far he came just to get there.

“He didn’t do real well (at WPIALs),” Hampton coach Bruce Steckel said. “But that doesn’t make the whole season. … We all should be proud of him.”

O’Donnell didn’t even make varsity during his first three years at Hampton, settling for junior varsity.

But he earned a spot in his final season, and then fired a 79 at Saxon Golf Course on Sept. 20 at the Section 8-3A qualifiers to tie for 10th and become the only Hampton golfer to achieve the target score of 82 and reach the WPIAL Class 3A semifinal Sept. 27 at Champion Lakes.

With an invitation to the WPIAL championships on the line, O’Donnell struggled off the tee at the Bolivar course and finished tied for 69th out of 77 golfers. He carded three pars, eight bogeys, six double-bogeys and a triple-bogey on the par-3 No. 7. The top 36 golfers advanced to the WPIAL final round, with a 13-over 84 being the eventual cut.

“I’ll be honest,” O’Donnell said. “My driver was not the best that day. But you will have those days.”

O’Donnell said the experience of reaching the WPIAL tournament was more important than the result.

“I was very grateful to get there,” he said. “I’ve been working really hard from freshman year to be able to make it to WPIALs. .. I went in there trying not to be nervous, because I knew I would be. I just kind of played my game the best that I could. Nerves got to me a little bit. But I had fun, so I count that as a win.”

During the regular season, O’Donnell was a steady performer for the Talbots, averaging about 44 per nine holes. The only senior on the roster, he also served as a leader for Hampton, which overcame a 1-8 start to finish 6-11 overall following a season-ending 194-215 loss to Peters Township on Sept. 29.

“I feel like I played pretty well,” O’Donnell said. “I really didn’t grow up playing country-club level courses, so the greens were much faster, the rough was a little higher, the fairways were a little (tighter). It was a different component of golf that I’m not really used to. But I enjoyed it so much. I had so much fun this year.”

Steckel said he was proud of how O’Donnell achieved an offseason goal, going from a three-year JV player to a key part of the Talbots this season.

“He was determined at the end of last year that was going to make varsity and he was going to play,” Steckel said. “He really worked hard, and it was very evident. I figured he would be an important part of the team in a leadership role. But he kind of just took off with his game.”

The Talbots, meanwhile, lost their first six matches this season and started 1-8, but they regrouped to go 5-3 down the stretch, including payback victories over Shady Side Academy and North Catholic in Section 8-3A play. They went 4-6 in the section after an 0-4 start.

“We knew we were right there,” said O’Donnell, who will attend Penn College of Technology and hopes to join the golf team at the Williamsport school.

Hampton next season will return a host of its top golfers, including junior Peter Kramer, who averaged a team-best 39 per nine holes. Kramer was ruled ineligible for the postseason after transferring from Shady Side Academy following his sophomore year. A standout basketball player, Kramer lost his appeal to the PIAA in September and will also be ineligible for the basketball playoffs this upcoming season.

Others expected to return for golf are sophomore Tyler Schmitt, who averaged 40, and juniors Matt Erka (42) and Robert Coll (44). Juniors Avish Vyas and Samantha Shaughnessy and freshman Rin Suyama will also be back.

There will be a lot of competition for starting jobs next season. The current varsity and JV rosters include 11 juniors, and because seniors are not allowed to play JV, Steckel said some quality golfers are going to be sent home.

“I expect them to do some big things next year,” the 10th-year coach said. “But put it this way. I’m not looking forward to it. I know I’m going to have to cut some seniors. There’s no doubt about that.”

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