Caroline Wrigley expected to play somewhat precariously when she set out to defend her WPIAL Class AAA girls golf championship.
Instead, she played beautifully. And brought home another title — underscored by an impressive score.
The North Allegheny junior blistered Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley with a 5-under-par 67, trading shots with playing partner Lauren Freyvogel, a junior from Pine-Richland, on the way to a four-shot win.
Wrigley, a Furman recruit, hit fairways and played to the center of fast greens. The result was four birdies, an eagle and only one bogey.
The WPIAL announced the 5-under total was the lowest winning score in relation to par at the finals in at least 20 years.
“I was pretty happy with my number; it's my personal record so that's cool,” Wrigley said. “My best before this was 68. I knew I could do it, I just wasn't sure it would happen today. I was sick a couple weeks ago and I shot a 4-over and 5-over. But I have gotten it back lately.”
Freyvogel shot 1-under 71 and matched Wrigley's birdie on No. 1 and her eagle on No. 14.
“We were feeding off each other's energy,” said Freyvogel, a Virginia recruit. “We're happy each other played well. (Wrigley) was putting really well and hit a lot of awesome shots. She was close to the hole and was able to make a lot of birdies so it was pretty cool to watch.”
Freyvogel made a 60-foot bomb on the first green and Wrigley followed with a 35-footer. Both players hit the par-5 14th in two shots and drained eagle putts.
Wrigley just kept accelerating. She played the par 5s in 4-under.
“I felt a lot of pressure because I was trying to defend the title,” said Wrigley, who shot 3-under on the front nine. “I just tried slowing things down, taking it one shot at a time and trying not to get ahead of myself. I focused on each shot that was in front of me. That helped ease the nerves.”
Wrigley is the ninth repeat champion in WPIAL girls golf history and the first in Class AAA since Lauren Waller of Canon-McMillan won in 2013-14.
North Allegheny's team is 18-0 and favored to win a third straight WPIAL title next week. Wrigley has played in the No. 1 spot but hasn't scored as low as she did last year. Wednesday's round, a rushed warm-up session notwithstanding, did not come out of nowhere but it showed what the streaky Wrigley can do.
“She has had an up-and-down year; she has bogeyed par 5s which isn't like her,” North Allegheny coach Mike Hambrick said of Wrigley. “We have been waiting for (a round) like this to come out, for her to put it all together. She was due. She has all the shots.”
Freyvogel feels like she can't catch a break. She also shot 1-under in the Section 1-AAA tournament at Conley's Resort but finished second to Mars senior Natalie Welsh (70).
But she is confident moving forward in the postseason.
“This gave me a lot of momentum,” Freyvogel said. “I was looking to go out and play my best. I was happy with 1-under on this course.”
North Allegheny junior Christina Lewis was third at 5-over 77, Oakland Catholic junior Jessica Myers finished fourth at 78 and Uniontown junior Danae Rugola took fifth at 79.
Sewickley Academy junior Tatum McKelvey, meantime, shot 81 to win the Class AA title.
“I was plus-four through nine and I got it down to plus-two going into 15,” McKelvey said. “And I hit the final four holes, the hardest holes on the course and it kind of went downhill, but I stuck it out to enough to take the victory. I came to win today and that's what I did.”
Defending champion Kiaria Porter, a junior from Central Valley, and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic sophomore Maddie Smithco were a shot back at 82.
Porter shot 39 on the front side but made a pair of 7s on the back. Smithco made two birdies on the back.
McKelvey is the first girls golf champion in her school's history. She has scholarship offers from Bucknell and Carnegie Mellon. She was glad to see her lead hold up after playing in the first group out.
“My practice round I shot a few under,” McKelvey said. “But that's during a practice round with no pressure. I haven't breathed since 9:30 this morning when I teed off because of nerves. The wind picked up, the greens are fast and it's a tight course. So I am glad with what I shot.”
Greensburg Central Catholic junior Abby Zambruno was fourth at 84.
“The course is in really good condition and the greens were tough,” said Zambruno, who has helped GCC take a 14-0 record into the team playoffs where the Centurions are seeking a WPIAL three-peat. “I had a rough start and got into a good rhythm in the middle of the round. But it kind of blew up at the end.”
Zambruno was 2-under on the back through 14 but sputtered down the stretch, making a triple bogey on 18.
The top seven Class AAA finishers and top eight in Class AA advance to the PIAA Western Regional tournament Oct. 16 at Tom's Run Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge Resort in Blairsville.
The individual postseason shifts to the team playoffs next week before returning for regionals and the PIAA finals Oct. 23-24 in York.