Sewickley Academy boys golf team maintains winning tradition

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Friday, October 11, 2019 | 5:28 PM


For the seventh straight year and 10th time in program history, Sewickley Academy captured the WPIAL Class AA boys golf team championship last Thursday at Cedarbrook Golf Course in Belle Vernon.

With a team score of 406, the Panthers blew away the Class AA competition and bested runner-up North Catholic by 22 strokes.

Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer could point to a list things that has allowed his program to have uninterrupted success over the last seven years. But, he said one of the biggest is the senior leadership year in and year out.

“We’ve been really lucky over the years to have these seniors that take such pride,” Palmer said. “They want to go out and be the lead dog, and they set the tone for us. It allows the younger kids to relax because they know it’s not all on their shoulders.”

On Thursday, JF Aber stepped into that role.

Out of the No. 1 spot, the 2019 WPIAL Class AA individual champion set the tone for his team and fired a 1-under 71. He made the turn with a 2-under 34 and came in on the back-nine with a 1-over 37. His job was done and allowed his team to relax as the day carried on.

“It’s beautiful when a senior like JF knows it’s his last time, and he goes out and shoots a 71,” Palmer said. “It was just incredible. Then the word got out to our kids that he was playing great, and it takes a lot of pressure off.”

The rest of the team followed suit. Juniors Tim Fitzgerald and Navin Rana shot 80 and 85, respectively; sophomore Will Duggan carded an 84; and freshman Joey Mucci shot an 86 to round out the top five scorers. Senior Zoe Luther carded a 90, as well.

It was an overall team effort that delivered another championship and added to a culture that has been established over the past decade at Sewickley Academy.

“To win it every year I have been in high school is amazing,” Aber said. “To be the one that gets to carry on the streak, it feels great, especially since I’m a senior. I didn’t want to come up short this year.”

The culture at Sewickley Academy wasn’t established overnight. Palmer said there were plenty of things that allowed it to manifest. Hard work, pride and the players being coachable are just some of the things that have contributed to the long-lasting success.

But every summer, several alumni come back to give the players advice and help them learn what it takes to continue the streak they started. Last year, Aber took a piece of advice from then-senior Matt Klemesh that allowed him to thrive this season when he took over that leadership role.

“He always preached team golf, and I kind of tried to take that into this year,” Aber said. “I think we were able to play as a team (Thursday), and it feels great.”

Now, the Panthers will head to the PIAA tournament where they are hoping to capture their first state championship since 2017.

Quaker Valley’s boys team finished fourth in Class AA with a team score of 437. They were led by Kyle Rice (83), Aidan Bulger (86), Luke Melisko (88), Adam Tabane (89) and Eva Bulger (91).

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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