Peter Kramer leads senior-heavy Hampton boys golf team
Saturday, August 19, 2023 | 11:01 AM
The Hampton boys golf team is looking to turn experience into exultation.
The senior-ladened Talbots return five of their top six golfers from a 6-11 team and entered the 2023 season with lofty expectations.
The nine-player roster consists of eight seniors and one junior, making it the most seasoned group in coach Bruce Steckel’s 11-year tenure.
“We’re going to have a very veteran team,” said Steckel, who lost only one senior, WPIAL qualifier Joey O’Donnell, from last year’s lineup. “It’s the most experienced team I’ve had. It’s yet to see if they are the best team I’ve had. But I can easily say that they could be. Last time I had a team like this (in 2015), we were in the WPIAL team finals.”
The top returnee is senior Peter Kramer, who last season averaged a team-best 39 per nine holes.
Kramer, the 6-foot-4, 190-pound lefthander, won the Talbots’ two-day, 36-hole team tryout Aug. 8-9 at Pittsburgh North, shooting 6-over 150 (75-75).
“We should be pretty experienced and we should be pretty good, for sure,” Kramer said. “We definitely think we can contend for the (section) title.”
Kramer, who last season led the Hampton boys basketball team to a 24-4 mark, is determined to play well in his final year. He was ineligible for the WPIAL Class 3A postseason last season after transferring from Shady Side Academy.
“Last year kind of sucked. I wasn’t able to play (in the postseason),” he said. “This year one of my main goals is definitely to play good golf and see where it takes me.
“I’ve been a lot better off the tee and I’ve been able to work the ball both ways off the tee, which has helped me a little bit. Short game-wise, I feel like my wedges have been pretty good.”
The Talbots’ No. 2 golfer is junior Tyler Schmitt, the lone non-senior on the roster. He averaged 40 last season and was second at the ‘23 tryout.
“He’s probably a couple of strokes better than he did last year,” Steckel said. “He’s looking good. He’s ready. He’s been playing a lot of golf.”
Rounding out the top six are seniors Matt Erka (42 average last season), Robert Coll (44), lefty Avish Vyas and Andrew Bagnato.
Seniors James Elk, Gavin Hamlin and Samantha Shaughnessy will provide depth.
The Talbots opened the season with a 186-200 loss to North Allegheny on Aug. 10 at Pittsburgh North. It kicked off an ambitious nonsection schedule that also includes Pine-Richland, Mars and ‘22 WPIAL Class 3A runner-up Peters Township.
The Talbots are focused on returning to the WPIAL team playoffs after a three-year drought. They had reached the postseason in each of Steckel’s first seven seasons before the recent slide. Their top foes in Section 8-3A are likely to be North Catholic, Fox Chapel and Shaler. The top two finishers advance to the WPIAL team playoffs.
“One of our main goals is to try to win every home match,” Kramer said. “Wildwood is a tricky little course and not many people have the experience like the guys we have do. If we can win every home match, that puts us in a pretty good spot.”
The individual postseason begins with sectional qualifiers Sept. 18 at a course to be determined, followed by the WPIAL first round Sept. 25 at Latrobe Country Club and the WPIAL finals Oct. 3 at Valley Brook Country Club.
The WPIAL team playoffs begin with semifinal matches Oct. 10.
The Talbots began to show signs of improvement in the second half of last season. They opened the year 1-8 but fought back to go 5-3 down the stretch and finish 4-6 in the section after an 0-4 start.
Steckel said the Talbots are experienced, balanced and talented enough to reach the WPIAL playoffs.
“They have the capability of doing that,” he said. “But it’s up to them at this point. They are the most experienced. No doubt about that. But are they ready to compete against the best teams? We’ll see.”
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