Sewickley Academy golfers look to carry on culture created by late coach Win Palmer

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Sunday, September 10, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The 2021 season was an aberration for the Sewickley Academy boys golf program.

The Panthers won WPIAL championships for eight consecutive years starting in 2013 only to have the impressive streak end in 2021.

The Sewickley golfers returned to championship status last year as they claimed their ninth team title in the past decade.

SA defeated Belle Vernon in sudden death in the WPIAL Class 2A finals at the Cedarbrook Gold Course, then went on to place third in the state behind Lake-Lehman and Devon Prep.

The Panthers are being coached by Seamus Coons this season. SA’s veteran and highly successful coach, Win Palmer, died unexpectedly Aug. 31.

Coons was Sewickley’s JV coach and varsity assistant since 2019.

“Defending the WPIAL title is always a challenging task that requires all our players’ hard work, determination and focus,” Coons said. “We graduated several incredibly talented players last year, and we have a younger team this year.

“For the past two decades, coach Palmer built a culture of sportsmanship, hard work and love for golf. This has led to a tremendous amount of success. The team hopes to continue with that tradition this year.”

Severin Harmon, Karan Kad and Nolan Donnelly are junior co-captains for the Panthers; there are no seniors on the 2023 squad.

“We’re a very young team,” Harmon said. “I expect the team to learn quickly and improve as we work our way through the season.

“Personally, I’m looking to improve upon my previous finishes at the WPIAL and PIAA championships this year. I’ve been really focused on staying level-headed while playing.”

And Harmon has welcomed back an old friend.

“I’ve gone back to my old putter from my freshman year,” he said, “and I feel like that has given me some more confidence and success on the greens. In general, there’s just been a lot of work put in with our coaches to keep improving all around.”

Rounding out the varsity squad at SA are junior Robert Fogle, sophomores Luke Palguta, Billy Pietragallo, Niko Frazzini and freshman Emily Milanovich.

“All of our golfers worked hard during the offseason and improved their abilities,” Coons said. “I have been especially impressed with our three captains, Severin, Karan and Nolan, who have not only improved their own games but have also taken the younger players under their wing and helped them improve.”

Sewickley and Belle Vernon finished regulation play tied for the top spot in Class 2A with 411 team scores at last year’s WPIAL finals. Quaker Valley followed closely in third with a 412.

The Panthers captured the 2A title on the first playoff hole, the par-5, 554-yard 10th at Cedarbrook.

Kad hit into a greenside bunker while Harmon landed on the green. Kad was able to get up and down for a par while Harmon bogeyed the hole. Both BV golfers bogeyed, which clinched the district championship for Sewickley.

“Karan had a great up and down for par for the win,” Harmon said. “It was a very special moment for all of us.

“The team battled hard all day long. Everyone played a huge part; it was definitely a team effort.

Harmon, with an 80, tied for low round for SA with teammate Nick Straka on the 6,413-yard course. Harmon also was a WPIAL finalist as a freshman.

The WPIAL championship was the 12th won by Sewickley boys golf teams since 2006. SA was a state finalist for the seventh time in nine years and placed third in 2A.

Harmon and Kad were two of the team’s five qualifiers at the PIAA finals held on Penn State’s Blue Course.

“I thought we played really well as a team, especially considering the harsh weather,” Harmon said. “It’s always an honor to play in a state championship, and our performance was a testament to how hard we worked.”

Sewickley won PIAA crowns in 2015, 2017 and 2019 and has been a state finalist seven times since 2014.

“Coach Palmer was a wonderful mentor to me,” Coons said, “and I want to maintain the culture of hard work, sportsmanship and commitment to excellence this year.”

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