Mocello wins Westmoreland Juniors in playoff after improbable approach shot

Thursday, June 23, 2022 | 8:06 PM

Tyler Mocello took a circuitous path to a victory Thursday, winning a sudden-death playoff hole against two others and claiming the championship of the annual Westmoreland County Golf Association Junior Amateur Tournament at Latrobe Country Club.

The former Belle Vernon standout, who is headed to Division II Pitt-Johnstown in the fall, spectacularly birdied No. 1 on the second time around in the playoff after hitting his drive onto the adjacent No. 18 fairway.

“I tugged my driver and it hooked, and the ball ended up luckily going through the trees,” Mocello said. “I was in the middle of the 18 fairway down by the road. At first, it was ‘Oh, boy!’ ”

But after Mocello, Nixen Erdely and Nolan Schilling, who played to a three-way tie at the end of regulation, strolled toward the green, Mocello’s spirits rose.

“I thought I saw a ball by the road, and it was there,” Mocello said. “With the trees, there was a little bit of an opening. I figured I could get over that part of it. I hit a wedge over the trees and stuck it about 14 inches from the hole.”

Mocello said he tracked the flight of the ball, which drew back toward the pin.

“I thought it was right there,” he said, “but I was never able to see it land. I tried to run out to see under the trees. I never saw it until they said, ‘Good shot.’ I ended up walking out and looking around. I just thought I hit it on the green, but I saw a ball right next to the hole.”

He sized up the shot and calmly tapped it in for birdie to claim the tournament’s 2022 championship.

The trio ended regulation play with identical scores of 6-over-par 78 while 15-year-old Preston Stoner of Norwin faltered on the final hole with a triple-bogey 7 to relinquish the lead.

“I really had no idea I was in the lead,” said Stoner, who enters his sophomore year at Norwin in the fall. He settled for a victory in the 13-15 division with a 9-over 81.

“I just played my game all day, and I fell apart on the back 9,” he said.

All three regulation co-leaders were in position to force a second playoff hole at No. 18 with birdie-putt chances on No. 1. But Erdely, who attended Frazier and Schilling, from Franklin Regional, couldn’t convert.

“I hit a driver just short of the road, then a wedge to about 8 feet of the pin,” said Erdely, who qualified for the tournament with memberships at Westmoreland County-based courses Cedarbrook and Hannastown. “I just couldn’t put it in. It’s disappointing, but I played well, overall.”

Schilling tried finding a positive when the group returned to the clubhouse, but he was discouraged with his day’s work, despite being in position for a win.

“Off the tee today killed me, for sure,” he said. “I was hitting good shots otherwise. The driver? It killed me.”

Schilling hit left under the tree line on the playoff hole, then used a 5-iron to flip a 127-yard shot within 22 feet of the pin.

“I just left it a bit short, but it was a good putt,” he said. “I’m not as disappointed that I lost as how I played, overall. But it’s a great tournament. It’s always good to be here. Lots of fun.”

Defending champion Nicholas Turowski, from Penn-Trafford, wound up fourth with an 8-over 80, while Stoner, Derry’s Ashton Beighley, Evan Bower of Geibel Catholic and Patrick Bush of Belle Vernon were tied at another stroke back at 81.

With his improbable victory in hand, Mocello seemed to reflect on the day as he looked down from the clubhouse onto No. 1, from where his last tee shot sailed away from the green.

“I think it’s harder to win ‘The Junior’ because you only have 5 or 6 years whenever you’re eligible to play in it,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to join the list of names of great golfers to come out of the county. Right now, I’m a little shocked.”

Westmorland County Junior Amateur

At Latrobe Country Club

16-18 division

1t. Tyler Mocello, Belle Vernon, 78*; 1t. Nixen Erdely, Frazier, 78; 1t. Nolan Schilling, Franklin Regional, 78; 4. Nick Turowski, Penn-Trafford, 80; 5t. Ashton Beighley, Derry, 81; 5t. Evan Bower, Geibel, 81; 5t. Patrick Bush, Belle Vernon, 81; 8. Hunter Jurica, Derry, 82; 9. Jeff Anderchak, Franklin Regional, 83; 10. PJ Germano, Latrobe, 84

*Won on sudden death playoff hole

13-15 division

1. Preston Stoner, Norwin, 81; 2. Jack Sacriponte, Latrobe, 85; 3. David Newsom, Penn-Trafford, 86; 4. Nolan Savinda, Franklin Regional, 87; 5. Luke Anderchak, Franklin Regional, 88

Team results

1. Franklin Regional, 248; 2. Belle Vernon, 258; 3. Derry, 259; 4. Latrobe, 260; 5. Penn-Trafford, 261; 6. Norwin, 264; 7. Kiski Area, 293; 8. Hempfield, 302

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