Learning from losses leads Sewickley Academy to 8th straight WPIAL boys golf title

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Sunday, October 25, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Throughout the 2020 golf season, the Sewickley Academy boys golf team went through adversity.

For the first time in a long time, the Panthers were beaten twice in section play during the season, with both losses coming to Quaker Valley. The Quakers won the section, which was the first time a team other than the Panthers did so since 2004.

The Panthers never wavered though. They buckled down, worked on their game and ultimately prepared for the team tournament.

“Those losses just showed weaknesses that we had,” Sewickley Academy Win Palmer said. “Our short game wasn’t good enough, and everyone was working hard, and we had some good practices. There was some great instruction from John Aber, the pro up at Allegheny Country Club. We were just giving away too many strokes. We were getting away with it in other matches, but those losses exposed our weaknesses, and it ultimately helped us.”

Sewickley Academy put that extra effort to work on Oct. 15 when the Panthers won their eighth consecutive WPIAL Class AA boys team golf title, beating out runner-up Quaker Valley by 18 strokes.

Sophomore Joey Mucci led the way with a tournament-best score of 76, senior captains Tim Fitzgerald and Navin Rana shot an 81 and 82, and the rest of the team shot below a 92.

The Panthers didn’t just battle other teams on the course, though. They battled the elements as well. On a windy and somewhat rainy day, the Panthers had to maneuver through the course with extreme caution. The greens were fast, which made downhill putts extremely difficult, and wind speeds were fast, which decreased accuracy.

But the Panthers overcame the adversity, and Palmer said that made their victory that much sweeter.

“What I loved about our team was that we dealt with adversity and we didn’t get down,” Palmer said. “The guys embraced the tough conditions, so that’s the fun part about it.”

Sewickley Academy went through a roller-coaster type of season before winning their WPIAL team title. At the beginning of the season, before losing to Quaker Valley, the Panthers defeated both Franklin Regional and Fox Chapel, who finished in first and second at the WPIAL Class AAA tournament, at the Sewickley Invitational at Allegheny Country Club.

Sewickley Academy beat Fox Chapel by four strokes and Franklin Regional by a stroke with a team score of 380. It started off their season on a very high note, but Palmer thought they might’ve needed to get knocked down a peg before they were able to get their current level.

“They grew so much this season, and we needed to face adversity,” Palmer said. “It’s ironic because it was the first tournament of the year, and we thought our season would go really well. It put us here (hand above his head) and I think we had to come back here (hand around his chest) to get where we are.”

The Panthers were set to travel to Heritage Hills in York on Oct. 26 to defend the PIAA Class AA title they won a year ago. It was their third state title since 2015.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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