Plum girls golf team shows improvement in inaugural season

Saturday, September 23, 2023 | 11:01 AM

In past fall seasons, female golfers at Plum would get their opportunity to compete, but they would have to share the course with their Mustangs male counterparts and challenge for positions in the starting lineup.

That started to change last year when a group of Plum girls gathered to test the waters with the hopes of starting a full-fledged girls team at the school.

The ball continued to roll, so to speak, in the spring and over the summer, and this fall, nine team members have continued to blaze the trail and lay the foundation for future Plum girls teams.

“Last year, when they started the club, the girls would go to the driving range and also go on the course,” Plum coach Amy Semnisky said.

“They decided that they didn’t want to compete just yet. They liked to golf and worked to improve, but they didn’t want the whole competition thing. Some of them never had a club in their hands, and now they are shooting in the 50s, low 60s, and a couple of them have scored rounds in the 40s.”

The team took shape in the spring, Semnisky said, when interim athletic director Scott Heinauer helped get the team officially approved and scheduled some matches.

New athletic director Drew Karpen scheduled some additional matches, and the team was off and running with an independent schedule against Butler, Greensburg Central Catholic, Beaver, Franklin Regional, Penn-Trafford, Belle Vernon, Deer Lakes and South Fayette.

“It’s made it a good season for us for getting that good experience,” Semnisky said.

“Some of the teams we’ve played are also independents who are waiting for the next cycle next year. Those schools are young and getting started, too. We’re happy to have been able to play them. Franklin Regional, Butler and Greensburg Central Catholic are more established teams in the WPIAL, so it’s been a nice mix.

“One of our better matches was our first match with Butler. Butler was so good, and the girls learned a lot from it. They saw the pace of play, and it helped them play faster. It wasn’t things you normally think about when you are on the course with your dad or a friend riding in a cart.”

Semnisky said that with the new two-year competition cycle starting next year, Plum should be able to garner a place in a section and be eligible to compete for individual and team playoff opportunities.

Plum, led by a trio of senior captains in Madi Wells, Sophia Strasser and Makenna Raabe, tallied a season-best 202 in a loss to Greensburg Central Catholic at Mt. Odin Park Golf Course on Aug. 22.

The Mustangs weren’t able to pick up a win until Sept. 18 on senior day against Deer Lakes at their home of 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills.

Wells led the way with a 51, while Raabe (52) and Strasser (55) rounded out the top three scorers as Plum defeated Deer Lakes, 215-234.

Wells, who hadn’t played the game a lot before joining the Plum club last fall, fired a personal-best and a team-best 47 in the opener against Butler.

“I would go out with my dad, and I also had a couple of lessons, but I had never actually played a real round of golf,” she said.

“Before last year, I really couldn’t hit the ball off the ground. I played softball before this, so the transition was very different. Through all of this and the work with the team, coach Semnisky, and all the other stuff I’ve been doing, I’ve gotten a lot better.

“This is the first-ever girls team at Plum, so it is pretty cool to be a part of it. We’ve all really improved our games. We’ve all taken it seriously, but not too seriously. We’re just out here having fun.”

Wells had a busy start to the week as she also represented Plum at an 18-hole WPIAL Class 3A qualifier Sept. 19 at the Pittsburgh Field Club.

“She got hit with a golf ball on the second hole,” Semnisky said. “She didn’t score well, but she insisted on finishing her round.”

Raabe (49) and sophomore Kailey Burton (49) also have scored under the 50 threshold this season.

“(The Butler match) was the first time I ever broke 50,” Raabe said.

“I came home, and my dad was super proud of me. It was a great feeling. I’ve played for a few years before this, but I’ve really seen my game improve a lot. I’ve always had a decent swing, but I am working on improving things like my putting.”

Joining Wells, Strasser, Raabe and Burton on this year’s Plum team are sophomores Ava Miller and Addy Pfeiffer, and freshmen Jessica Hartley, Mia Murrio and Emma Bevacqua.

Murrio is pulling double duty this season as she also is a member of the Plum girls volleyball team.

“It’s been great to have the team bonding this year and be able to become a team like we have,” said Strasser, who played on the boys team at Riverview before moving to Plum and has played the game in some form or fashion for most of her life.

“There’s not a lot of girls golfers out there, in general. It was always hard to compete with the boys. It’s great this has started, but I really wish Madi, Makenna and I had more than just this one year. Now that the program is up and running, we’re going to leave. But we’re happy to be a part of something that hopefully will keep going for years and years.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at


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