Leechburg senior Cole Villa finishes 2nd at WPIAL Class AA individual championship

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Sunday, October 4, 2020 | 7:54 PM


Leechburg senior Cole Villa has played a lot of golf over the past few years.

He’s put the work in each summer, and he’s played on the Leechburg golf team since he was a freshman. But Villa never has been more confident than last Thursday when he stepped onto the No. 1 tee box at Allegheny Country Club for the WPIAL Class AA individual championship.

“That was probably the most confident that I ever have been going into a tournament or anything like that because I knew all the work that I had put in this summer and spring,” Villa said. “I knew I was really confident with where I was. So, there wasn’t as much pressure as there’s been the last couple of years.”

Villa used that confidence and went out and shot a 5-over-par 75 to finish second behind Sewickley Academy’s Tim Fitzgerald. The senior is Leechburg’s top WPIAL finisher since Matt Barto won back-to-back titles in 2012-13.

“I was proud of the way I played,” Villa said. “I set a goal heading into (Thursday) to shoot anything 75 or lower. I thought I played pretty well. it was a lot tougher than the practice round that I played because the conditions were a lot windier.”

Villa qualified for the event after shooting a 9-over 80 at Riverforest Country Club. He was the only player to qualify from the Section 1-AA event Sept. 21.

After qualifying for his third straight WPIAL tournament, Villa carded one birdie, 12 pars, four bogies and a double-bogey on the 18th hole. Villa said the key to his round was being able to navigate the course off the tee box.

“Going into it, that was the only shaky thing that I had a couple issues with,” Villa said. “I was bailing out on a couple holes where I really didn’t need to. But knowing the course after playing Allegheny the past three years, I kind of knew where to miss, and that’s really a big part of it. Just being smart, playing strategically, knowing you can’t be above the hole here or below the hole here, just knowing the course really does help.”

As he has gotten older, Villa said he’s learned in order to be successful on the course, and in tournaments like Thursday’s, a golfer has to keep emotions in check for a full round. That’s what he thought contributed most to his improvement over the last few years.

“There were just simple, simple, stupid mistakes that I would make, and I would just end up giving up on a hole and you just can’t do that,” Villa said. “You have to stay with it the entire time, and it’s tough for 18 holes but it’s what you need to do. If you don’t do it for 18 holes, your score is going to reflect that.”

Although he’s played in the WPIAL tournament three times, 2020 will be the first year that Villa has qualified for the regional or state tournament.

Because of covid-19, the PIAA elected to cancel the Western/Eastern Regional tournaments this season, so players advance straight to the state tournament, which will be Oct. 19 at Heritage Hills Resort in York on.

The top 12 players from the WPIAL advanced to the state tournament, and Villa is excited to go against some of the best Class AA golfers in Pennsylvania.

“There are obviously a lot of good players that are going there, but at the same time I’m confident,” Villa said. “I know all of the work that I’ve put in, and I deserve to be there. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

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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