Sewickley Academy golfers look to start another WPIAL championship streak

Saturday, August 20, 2022 | 8:39 PM

Sewickley Academy won eight consecutive WPIAL 2A titles in boys golf from 2013-2020.

The Panthers, coached by Win Palmer, are looking to start a new streak and regain that lofty status after missing out on a championship last season.

North Catholic posted a 405 score to earn a four-shot victory over Quaker Valley and win its first WPIAL crown last fall. Sewickley Academy tied for third with Derry (428).

SA has four returning starters on this year’s team: senior standouts Joey Mucci and Nick Straka and sophomore whiz kids Severin Harmon and Karan Kad.

“I’m very excited for the golf season, and I think we’ll be a solid team,” Straka said. “We have some young players that are playing good golf, and I expect each golfer on the team to continue to get better.”

Mucci is a fourth-year starter and a WPIAL and PIAA finalist the past two years. He has retained his No. 1 position in the SA lineup.

“Joey has worked so hard on all aspects of his game. His ball striking and chipping are superb,” Palmer said last season. “Joey has stepped into that No. 1 position that has been occupied by so many successful alumni who have gone on to play college golf and even give it a shot at professional golf.”

Mucci, who said he averages in the low 70s, shot a three-over par 73 at last year’s WPIAL qualifying event to earn medalist honors.

“I was pleased with my performance,” he said. “I was very happy with my ball striking and wedges.

“However, I was disappointed and frustrated with my putting performance, so I went bought a new putter to get more confidence. I have a lot of putters. Putting is all confidence so that’s really important to me.”

It was the third consecutive WPIAL finals appearance for Mucci, a former baseball player. He finished third in the WPIAL in 2020 and placed 13th and 10th at the PIAA finals the past two seasons.

“My expectations are always the same for the team and individually,” Mucci said, “to compete at the highest level possible every year.”

The SA golfer is aiming to build off his performance from his three previous seasons.

“Last year was very disappointing for me during the WPIAL individual finals,” Mucci said, “but it’s a learning experience and hopefully this year I will have the result I’m looking for.

“Every match or tournament I play, I’m teeing it up to win. Some days you play your best and some days you have to grind it out. Golf is something new every day.”

Mucci placed second in his division at four Hurricane Junior Golf Tour events — the Myrtlewood Junior Open in March at Myrtlewood Golf Club in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Hurricane Pittsburgh Junior Open in May at Glengarry Golf Links in Latrobe, the Raleigh Junior Open in May at River Ridge Golf Club and the Major Championship tournament in June at Weissinger Hills Golf Course in Kentucky.

He currently is ranked 10th in his division in the HJGT rankings.

Straka, who is a catcher on the SA baseball team in the spring, carded an 81 at last year’s WPIAL qualifier. Harmon shot an 82.

“I have high expectations for (the team) this year,” Straka said. “For myself, I’m trying to play simple golf and get rid of the double bogeys and worse. I’d like to make it to the WPIAL championship for individuals and help the team make it to states.”

Straka and Mucci have been joined in the early season lineup by Harmon and Kad, senior Leon Jiao and sophomore Nolan Donnelly.

The Panthers kicked off this year’s schedule by taking first place in the Class 2A competition at the Jerry Roman Memorial Chairman’s Cup held Aug. 15 at Cedarbrook Golf Course.

Sewickley posted a 407 team score and was led by Harmon (75), Kad (78) and Mucci (81).

The Panthers’ remarkable run of WPIAL titles last decade propelled the SA golf program to elite status.

Sewickley has won 11 WPIAL championships and three PIAA crowns in school history, along with 21 section titles.

On another note, it was announced that the WPIAL will use three courses for the individual golf championships later this season.

The Class 2A boys will compete Oct. 4 at Oakmont Country Club, while the Class 3A boys will vie for the title Oct. 6 at Allegheny Country Club, SA’s home course. The Class 2A and 3A girls will play Oct. 3 at Valley Brook Country Club.

The WPIAL team golf championships are set for Oct. 13 at Cedarbrook.

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