Quaker Valley, South Fayette golfers claim WPIAL championships

Thursday, October 7, 2021 | 5:09 PM

When she was 9 years old, Marissa Malosh first picked up a golf club during a vacation in Hilton Head, S.C.

A family friend and avid golfer, Rob Watterson, watched her hit balls on the beach and thought it was a good idea she keep the club in her hands because she had such a natural swing.

Good advice.

“I would hit balls into the ocean,” said Malosh, a junior at South Fayette. “I liked it. I really started to get into the game.”

The rest is history. School history.

Who knew one day she not only would be part of a new girls team at South Fayette but also its first WPIAL champion?

Malosh shot an even-par 72 Thursday for a two-shot victory over Fox Chapel senior Nina Busch and junior Katie Rose Rankin of North Allegheny at the Class 3A championship at Hannastown Golf Club in Greensburg.

“We started a team my freshman year, and we have tried to bring the program along,” said Malosh, who attended the Mike Bender Golf Academy in Lake Mary, Fla. “I hope this helps keep the program going.”

The Class 2A title went to Quaker Valley junior Eva Bulger, who became just the third girls player in WPIAL history to win three straight titles. She also carded a 72, including an eagle on No. 18, to win by four over senior Meghan Zambruno of Greensburg Central Catholic.

The same girls also finished 1-2 last year.

“It was one round of golf, so anything can happen,” said Bulger, who joins Jodi Figley of Hopewell (1983-86) and Caroline Wrigley of North Allegheny (2016-18) as three-time champions. “I just tried to play my game. I’m happy with how I played.”

Malosh, who finished 11th and 12th in two previous trips to the finals, hit a 52-degree wedge to 15 feet on the par-3 second and made the putt to get to 1-under and made the turn at even 35. She was 2-over when she made back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17, knocking an 80-yard wedge to five feet on 16. She hit the par-5 17th in two.

“My long irons were consistent,” she said. “And I putted pretty well. I thought 2-over would be a good score. After I birdied 16 and 17, I knew I might have a shot. I still didn’t want to do anything stupid like duck-hook (on 18).

“I like to play aggressive. Sometimes that helps me, and sometimes it hurts me.”

Busch, a runner-up for the second time, gave chase but ran out of holes. She birdied 17 and 18 to shoot 74. Rankin also made a move with four birdies, three on the back nine.

“The tees were up, so I knew I had a chance,” Busch said. “I had so many birdies lip out. I figured there were probably 10 of us who had a chance to win.”

Bulger, the niece of former NFL quarterback Marc Bulger and former Oakland Catholic and West Virginia basketball stars Kate and Meg Bulger, said she liked the course, and it showed.

The lefty made the turn in 35 with a three-shot lead and didn’t make any costly mistakes on the inward nine. She birdied the par-3 13th to move to 1-over and bogeyed No. 14, a par 5.

But she saved her best for last. She striped her hybrid second shot on the par-5 18th 170 yards and onto the green, which doubles as a practice putting green. She rolled in the 15-footer for eagle, and she was four clear of Zambruno, with whom she played Thursday.

“I drop-kicked my driver and hit behind it, but I hit a good second shot,” Bulger said. “(Zambruno) played well. She’s a really good putter.”

Zambruno, a St. Francis (Pa.) commit, was 3-over after nine because of a triple bogey on No. 3 but rallied with three birdies on the back side, including on 18, to shoot 76.

Zambruno has finished sixth, third, second and second in the WPIAL final.

“I had a bad hole, and I wasn’t able to close the gap,” she said. “(Bulger) made a lot of good putts. The greens were tough and fast. I did better on the par 3s than the par 5s. My goal was to get to states.”

She accomplished her goal and will be joined in the state finals by three teammates for the second year in a row.

Next week, GCC will go for a seventh straight WPIAL team title.

The top seven 3A finishers and top nine from 2A advance to the PIAA championships Oct. 18-19 at Heritage Hills Resort in York.

Other 3A qualifiers are senior Caroline McConnell of South Fayette (75), senior Adena Rugola of Uniontown (75), senior and defending WPIAL champion Lindsey Powanda of Mt. Lebanon (76) and senior Allison Poon of Peters Township (76).

Powanda and McConnell will play in the state finals for a third time.

Junior Claire Konieczny of Geibel (82), sophomore Izzy Aigner of GCC (85), junior Kennady Norton of Central Valley (85), junior Mya Mrkonja of Central Valley (88), junior Ciara Anderson of Avonworth (88), and seniors Olivia Kana (90) and Ella Zambruno (93) of GCC qualified from 2A.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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