Pine-Richland junior finishes WPIAL tournament strong to qualify for states

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Sunday, October 8, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Walking to the 18th tee box, Will Hilton knew he was in position to qualify for the state tournament and some nerves started to set in.

Then he hit his tee shot into the rough.

But Hilton describes his scrambling ability as the strongest part of his game, and he put that to use to seal his spot.

Hilton, a junior at Pine-Richland, hit his second shot around some trees and onto the green and two-putted to finish with a par to secure a top 10 finish at the final round of the WPIAL Class 3A individual golf championship Tuesday at Valley Brook Country Club in Canonsburg.

He finished at plus-13 in the two-round event, two shots clear of the cut line to qualify for the state tournament for the first time.

“It’s pretty cool,” Hilton said. “I was a little nervous coming to 18, but I got it done.”

Pine-Richland junior Wesley Calhoun also made the cut for the final round at WPIALs and finished in 37th place.

Hilton started the day right on the cut line for states in 14th place and opened with a birdie on the first hole.

“I drove the ball into the right rough, but I was able to hit it to about 3 feet and then I hit the putt,” Hilton said. “It was a good way to start my round.”

There was a hiccup in the middle of the front nine. Hilton made double bogey on No. 4 and No. 5 but rebounded to birdie the par-5 ninth and finish his first nine at 38.

“It was a good momentum-gainer, making that birdie,” Hilton said. “I made a 30-foot putt to get it. Those two double bogeys were a little bit of a fluke in my round, but I got over them with that birdie on nine.”

Hilton put together a steady back nine with six pars and three bogeys to finish with a 77, three shots better than his first round.

He finished in 36th place last year at plus-32, so he improved his score by 19 strokes.

That showed all the time he put into his game was fruitful.

“I played in a lot of tournaments over the summer to get that tournament feel for golf,” Hilton said. “All summer, I put in a lot of work playing at Treesdale (Country Club). I played with friends and just played as much as I could.”

Hilton has never played at the Penn State Blue Course, which hosts the PIAA championships. He planned on going to State College over the weekend to get a couple practice rounds in. The PIAA championships are a two-round event Oct. 16-17.

“I’m just looking for a top 10 finish,” Hilton said. “If I can do that, I’ll be pretty happy with myself.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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