Quaker Valley golfers motivated by near-miss at WPIAL team tournament

Sunday, August 27, 2023 | 11:01 AM

One shot made all the difference for the Quaker Valley boys golf team last season, as the Quakers placed third in the WPIAL Class 2A tournament by the narrowest of margins.

Sewickley and Belle Vernon finished regulation play at the WPIAL event tied for the top spot in Class 2A with a team scores of 411. Quaker Valley followed closely in with a 412.

“We were favored to win and golfed well,” QV coach Greg Vecchi said. “Some unfortunate things happened, and we lost. It was awful.”

The Quakers’ top golfers a year ago were Ethan Dai, Nolan Wagoner, Jonah Schollaert, Jackson Bould, Adam Renner and Eva Bulger, a four-time WPIAL girls individual titlist who competed for the boys team.

Dai and Wagoner are returning starters as juniors this season.

Dai, 16, began playing tournament golf at age 6. He is a two-time PIAA qualifier for the Quakers.

“Our expectations this season are for everyone to do their best and see how far our young and developing team can go,” Dai said. “My goal is to hopefully qualify for PIAAs for my third time and place better than last year.”

Dai took first place in his age division Aug. 14 at the Wildwood Invitational at Wildwood Country Club.

“I played in a handful of other tournaments,” he said. “Some of my better tournaments included AJGAs, the U.S. Open qualifier at The Club at Nevillewood and the U.S. Junior Amateur at Avon Oaks.

“I focused a lot on improving my putting over the summer.”

The 16-year-old Wagoner hopes that QV can compete for another section championship despite the lack of senior leadership on this year’s team. That’s where he and Dai fit in.

“Ethan and I are expected to lead by example and show (their teammates) the ropes around the new courses and help them with whatever they need,” Wagoner said. “I’d like to think that Nolan and I have both taken a leadership role for our team.”

Wagoner is hoping the Quakers can challenge for another section title in 2023 and is looking to improve on his own performance from last year.

“We expect to compete within our section and see how far our young and developing team can go,” Wagoner said. “Last year, I fell short of making it to states, so I will be striving for that goal this year.

“During the summer, I knew I had a lot of improvement that needed to be done and made some swing and grip changes, which are now starting to come together.”

Will Newlin, Ryan Dusch and Makenna Kamnikar are sophomore team members.

“I really believe we’ll be a competitive team,” Vecchi said. “We have some new varsity golfers who really like the game and are serious about their game.

“We are still working out our varsity roster. We’ve had no real surprises. We still have some golfers battling out for the remaining spots.”

Kamnikar is a new addition who played on QV’s junior varsity team last year.

“I really think Makenna will help our varsity be a stronger team,” Vecchi said, “especially at Sewickley Heights Golf Course since she’s a member there. She’s a confident and relaxed golfer, two great attributes.

“Makenna’s, Will’s and Ryan’s games seem stronger (this year) with less mistakes.”

Schollaert, one of four freshmen to qualify for the individual finals in 2A, has transferred to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.

Bould, Renner and Bulger graduated in the spring.

“Jackson had very strong career,” Vecchi said. “He made the WPIAL finals all four years and finished second as a junior. He made the state finals his last two years with his best finish (second) as a junior. He cared about improving his game and cared about the team. He always gave 100%.

“Adam was a solid high school golfer. He golfed for varsity for his junior and senior year and averaged a 43 for the nine-hole matches both years. He’s a great kid.”

Bulger tied for seventh at the PIAA Class 2A girls finals at Penn State.

“Eva had an incredible career at Quaker Valley and accomplished so much,” Vecchi said.

Seventh place was Bulger’s best PIAA showing of her career. She ended up 10th as a junior.

“I was prepared and gave it my all at State College,” said Bulger, who has decided to delay attending college for a year. “I played pretty well both days.”

Other golfers looking to make an impact for the Quakers this season are newcomers Michael Ponzo, a senior, Henry Zubanc, a sophomore, and El Folabit, a junior.

“I’m looking forward to watching (all) these golfers compete and give this team their best effort so they can make us the best team possible,” Vecchi said.

Quaker Valley won the Section 9-2A championship with a 10-0 record in 2022.

Four QV golfers advanced to the WPIAL Class 2A individual championships last year, led by Wagoner with a round of 74. Schollaert, Bould, the WPIAL Class 2A runner-up in 2021, and Dai followed with scores of 77, 78 and 79.


More Golf

Fox Chapel grad reaching goals on Saint Vincent golf team
Fox Chapel notebook: Golfing grad playing well for High Point
Penn-Trafford’s Antolena Damico hitting all the right notes for future in golf, dentistry
Quaker Valley golfer enjoys breakthrough junior season
Plum golfer Wes Lorish motivated by finish at PIAA tournament