Moon senior Chris Sabol wasn't on anyone's radar as a favorite to win the WPIAL Class 3A golf championship.
But if you look at the previous six champions, they weren't either.
The WPIAL golf championship is a tough tournament for the top golfers to claim. Belle Vernon's Bo Lustig in 2010 was the last top golfer the claim a title.
But don't tell Sabol. He was confident he could win.
Sabol needed a par on the first playoff hole to defeat Latrobe junior Brady Pevarnik on Tuesday at Nemacolin Country Club in Beallsville. Both golfers finished the 18-hole event at even par. Pevarnik forced the playoff with a birdie on the final hole.
Franklin Regional junior Palmer Jackson, who finished third, also had a chance to get into the playoff on the final hole, but his 30-foot birdie putt slid past the hole.
Two previous champions, Peters Township senior Hunter Bruce (2015) and Fox Chapel junior Gregor Meyer (2016), advanced to the PIAA Western Regional on Oct. 16 at Chestnut Ridge Resort Tom Run's Course. In all, 14 golfers advanced.
“I've wanted this for four years now,” Sabol said. “It doesn't bother me that I wasn't the favorite. I pretty much know I can compete against anyone out here.”
Sabol said he played consistently all day, and he showed that on the first playoff hole. His drive ended up in the center of No. 1 fairway, 130 yards from the green. His second shot landed 15 feet to the left of the pin.
“I just played steady all day,” Sabol said. “I never got ahead of myself. I was 2-over thru three holes, and I never gave up. I just chugged along and made a few birdies.”
Meanwhile, Pevarnik's drive went left onto No. 2 fairway. He was 120 yards away, but his second shot clipped a tree branch and landed 40 yards short of the green. His third shot almost ended up in the hole but rolled 6 feet past, leaving him a tricky putt.
After Sabol two-putted for par, Pevarnik missed his par putt, giving Sabol the win.
“The drive wasn't too bad. I had a wide-open shot and hit a poor shot,” Pevarnik said, “I hit a great chip, and it didn't work out.”
The greens are what make Nemacolin Country Club difficult. Just ask Jackson.
After starting 3-over through five holes, Jackson used consecutive birdies on Nos. 6 and 7 and an eagle on No. 13 to go to 1-under. But bogeys on two par-3s (Nos. 14 and 16) forced Jackson to make birdie on the final hole.
“There were some greens that you couldn't stop the ball near the hole,” Jackson said. “They were borderline fair. If you key it below the hole, any hole is fair.”
One of the most amazing performances was by Shaler senior Tanner Grzegorczyk, who qualified with a 5-over 75.
Grzegorczyk did it on a broken right ankle. Despite the pain, which Grzegorczyk said got worse during the event, he wasn't going to give up. He broke his ankle Friday while playing for the Titans soccer team.
“I'm probably going to need to have surgery,” Grzegorczyk said. “It's my senior year, and I was playing no matter what. It proves I can do things I didn't think I could.”
The others golfers to advance were Upper St. Clair senior Jack Steve, Central Catholic juniors Jimmy Meyers and Neal Shipley, Elizabeth Forward senior Joe Klingensmith, Fox Chapel junior Gregor Meyer, Pine-Richland junior Rico Scuilli and sophomore Donnie Professori, Seneca Valley junior Mark McNulty and Greensburg Salem junior Jack Oberdorf.