Senior Spotlight: Final tennis season wiped out, but South Park senior’s golf game in full swing

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Wednesday, June 3, 2020 | 4:34 PM


Editor’s note: Each day, Trib HSSN will spotlight WPIAL spring athletes whose senior years were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Stone Ellis was a rock for the South Park boys golf and tennis teams the past several seasons.

He hoped to cap his prep athletic career this spring with a return to the PIAA Class AA tennis doubles tournament in Hershey. He teamed with Joey Toth to punch their ticket to states last year with a third-place finish at WPIALs.

South Park, with Ellis and Toth helping lead the way, also had plans to return to the PIAA team championships, where it made it to the quarterfinals in 2019.

Earlier in the school year, Ellis posted an 11thplace finish at the WPIAL Class AA golf championship and qualified for the PIAA Western Regional as the Eagles also qualified for the WPIAL team tournament.

Since being dealt an early end to his high school playing days, Ellis has turned his focus forward to his next step. That, he hopes, is an opportunity for competitive golf at Division I Coastal Carolina in Conway, S.C.

Ellis, a life-long golfer, will enter the professional golf management program at Coastal Carolina. He plans to try out for both the PGM golf team, a connected venture between the PGA and the university, and the Chanticleers men’s squad.

A lot of golf is in the future for Ellis, who plays regularly at South Park Golf Course and works at Cool Springs driving range and multi-sports facility in Bethel Park.

What was it about last year’s South Park tennis team that made the season a memorable one?

Everyone just filled in their spots perfectly. We had a solid team. The doubles teams had a lot of chemistry, and the singles players all held their own, no matter who we played.

What drove the optimism for this year’s team? How far do you think you could’ve gone?

We only lost two people, one from each doubles team. We were thinking we could be a better team this year with everyone working hard and improving in the offseason. We had some new people coming in who were pretty good. We were all coming along in all the preseason practices. The doubles teams were really clicking.

Is there an individual opponent you most enjoyed playing?

I wouldn’t say an individual opponent as much as I loved playing against Thomas Jefferson in general. It was always a really good match. Whether or not you won your match, you knew there were four other competitive matches that would decide which team won. Both teams brought out the best in each other.

What is your best memory of playing tennis at South Park?

Going to Hershey is kind of hard to beat. It was fun staying at the hotel as a team and also playing tennis in that type of environment. I didn’t play a lot of organized tennis until high school, and I hadn’t seen anything like (states). It was a lot of fun.

What is your best overall memory as a sports fan?

For sure, it has been Tiger Woods’ recent comeback on the PGA tour and winning again. When I was younger, I played golf, but I wasn’t as into it as I am now, so I didn’t get to watch him as much in his prime. Watching all the YouTube videos and documentaries to see how good he was, I wanted to see him be that way again. It was awesome to see how he fought back.

Is there a tennis or golf pro after whom you pattern your respective games?

In tennis, the player I’ve watched the most and who you could say I am like is Rafael Nadal because I play with a lot of spin. I am not a powerful striker. I just try to place a lot of my shots with a lot of spin. Nadal’s always been my favorite. Golf is one of those games where you can’t really base your game off the way someone else plays. I can’t really say there is anyone who I play like.

Are there any areas of your golf game you are looking to improve before college?

My short game, especially if I am playing down south. It’s going to have to improve a lot. It’s a lot different down south than up here. With golf, it’s basically working to improve everything all the time.

How did you get connected with Coastal Carolina, and what made it the best fit for you?

Coastal Carolina is in the middle of the golf capital of the world. One of my former teammates (Josh Neff), he graduated when I was a sophomore. He went to Coastal Carolina and went through the same PGM program I am going to be starting. I talked to him about it. A really good friend of mine (Canon-McMillan grad Nikos Karabetsos) goes to Coastal Carolina and really loves the school. Hearing from other people about how great the school is and how awesome the PGM program is, those things combined made it the right place for me.

Were you there at South Park Golf Course the day all Pennsylvania courses were permitted to reopen May 1?

I like to go out as a single (player), especially if I am working on my game. I drove up to the golf course that first day, and it was completely packed. It was a two-and-a-half-hour wait just to play. I just went to the range, and then I was able to play early the next day.

Do you play an instrument? If not, is there one you would like to learn how to play?

I played saxophone in the fourth-grade band, and I used to play the guitar through middle school. My friend’s dad plays guitar in a band, and we would go see him play. My friend started to play, so I started playing too. I learned to play mainly 90s alternative rock like Nirvana. About the time I started playing tennis and golf was when I stopped playing the guitar. I am one of those type people that if I am doing something, I am focused on that thing. I don’t like to do other things along with that one thing. When I go to my friend’s house, if there is a guitar lying around, I will pick it up to see if I can play something.

If you could pick anyone to give a commencement speech at your graduation, who would it be and why?

Tiger Woods. Tiger brought golf more popularity and he changed the game. It would be interesting to hear from him, all the good and the bad. He would have a lot of meaningful things to say.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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