Junior duo goes low for Franklin Regional golf team

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Friday, September 6, 2019 | 8:04 PM


Franklin Regional’s Chuck Tragesser and Michael Wareham spend a lot of their free time playing golf together at Willowbrook Country Club in Apollo. On match days, they are paired.

Needless to say, the duo is around each other a good amount, and they always are looking for to improve upon.

It’s a dedication to the sport that Panthers coach Jeff Traphagen appreciates, and it has helped them become consistent performers at the top of the lineup.

Tragesser and Wareham, who are juniors, have kept the Panthers in contention for the WPIAL Class AAA team postseason in a difficult section a year after graduating one of the top golfers in WPIAL history and 2018 PIAA champion Palmer Jackson.

“Chuck and Michael have definitely been my top two players,” Traphagen said. “Those two guys are much like Palmer and other guys before them in that they continue to work on their games. They love the game and go out and play every day that they can. They’re real students of the game.”

The Panthers were 6-3 and 4-3 in Section 4-AAA after a 193-204 loss to Central Catholic on Friday.

Tragesser placed 24th at the WPIAL individual final at Oakmont Country Club last year and has built on that performance. He had his best round of his career on Wednesday, shooting 5-under-par at Meadowink Golf Course in a match that Franklin Regional lost in a playoff to Fox Chapel.

The 5-under round tied Jackson’s lowest nine-hole round at Meadowink.

“Some special things happened (Wednesday),” Tragesser said. “I hit the ball well, made some putts and the next thing I knew, I was walking off the ninth green, shooting 5-under-par. I wasn’t really thinking about my score. It was in the back in the head, but I just focused on the next shot ahead of me and the match in general.”

Wareham also had a strong round on Wednesday, carding a 1-over-par 37.

When Wareham and Tragesser play together, they are able to admire the strengths of each other’s games and they’ve worked together to improve every aspect they can.

Tragesser enjoys watching Wareham work around the greens.

“Michael has a great short game,” Tragesser said. “Whether he’s hitting the ball good or bad, he always has that short game that can keep him in the thick of things. I strive to get to a point where I can say I have a tremendous short game like him.”

Wareham is always impressed with the consistency Tragesser has every time he tees it up.

“Chuck hits the ball far and his ball-striking is really good,” Wareham said. “He hits a lot of greens and will make the occasional birdie putt. He rarely makes a bogey or a big number. He consistently hits greens and fairways.”

When Tragesser and Wareham were freshmen, Traphagen often paired them with Jackson for practice rounds and sometimes in matches. The pair enjoyed the experience and took plenty of mental notes watching Jackson play the last three years.

“The biggest thing I learned from Palmer was to make the best with what you have,” Wareham said. “If he was put in a situation where he was stuck in the trees, he always seemed to find a way to still make par. He always told me to never accept bogey and to always try and make a par.”

“One of the things I always noticed about Palmer was how focused he was on the course,” Tragesser said. “He would never make a big number, because he’d always make the right decision. I hope to get to a point that I can say the same about myself.”

The WPIAL individual playoffs set up well with Franklin Regional hosting the sectional at Meadowink and Willowbrook being one of the two semifinal sites.

Wareham is hopeful to join Tragesser in the WPIAL championship after missing by one shot last year and would like to do so for his mother, Robin, who died in July after a three-and-a-half year battle with cancer. He dedicated his season to her.

“I’m playing for her,” Wareham said. “Every single shot I’m hitting is for her.”

They’d also like to help Franklin Regional qualify for the team postseason. Traphagen was hopeful playing well against perennial contender Fox Chapel on Wednesday could give them confidence in late season matches.

“We’re in a section with the best two teams in the WPIAL (Fox Chapel and Central Catholic) as far as I’m concerned, at least over the last three years,” Traphagen said. “I’m not sure what it’ll end up being this year, but Fox Chapel has proven itself to be a candidate to be the best team in the WPIAL.

“I want my players to believe that they belong with all these teams and they can compete with them. Hopefully their confidence level goes up and they start believing it.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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