Sewickley Academy golfers turn focus to team tournament

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Friday, September 28, 2018 | 9:09 PM


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Sewickley Academy junior J.F. Aber was in contention for a WPIAL Class AA golf championship on Thursday.

Playing at Allegheny Country Club where his dad, John, is the head professional, Aber was tied with Riverside junior Skyler Fox, the returning two-time champion, through 14 holes.

But Fox pulled away late and a couple bad shots by Aber ended his dream. Fox went on to hold off Elizabeth Forward senior Angus McHolme by a shot to win his third title.

But while Aber came up short, he was pleased how he battled Fox. He was also pleased he played a lot better than he did in 2017, when he shot an 85.

Aber tied for fifth after shooting a 3-over 73.

“I worked hard over the summer, and I got better,” Aber said. “It was fun battling Skyler. I learn from this experience.”

Now Aber his turning his attention to the team tournament where Sewickley Academy has won five consecutive WPIAL titles and is the returning PIAA champion.

Sewickley Academy returned only two starters from that squad — Aber and senior Matt Landen Shirley, but the Panthers had all six starters in the individual finals and sophomore Navin Rana (76) and senior Austin Applegarth (78) also advanced with Aber to the PIAA West Regional on Oct. 15 at Tom’s Run Golf Course in Blairsville.

“I think we have a shot at repeating,” Aber said. “Just that fact that all of us qualified for this tournament means so much that we can all play well at any given time.

“It gives me a lot of confidence going into the WPIAL team championship. It’s a new group; a lot of players graduated last year, so we have to focus on this year and this team. If we all play well, we’ll do good things.”

The other three Panthers to qualify for the finals were Shirley (85), senior Matt Klemash (85) and sophomore Tim Fitzgerald (87).

Two Quaker Valley players advanced to the regional. Junior Aiden Bulger finished third after shooting a 1-over 71 and senior Michael Tanabe tied for eighth after shooting a 4-over 75. Senior Evan Frund missed the cut after shooting an 81.

For Bulger, who led early, a double-bogey six on No. 17 ended his dream of a title.

“Three bad shots,” Bulger said. “The pressure got to me. I played pretty well. I hit good shots, and got up and down. I was thinking about my finish.”

Bulger said his game has improved through the season. For him, it was a lot of hard practice.

“I played a lot better at the end of the year,” Bulger said. “I have more confidence now than I did at the beginning of the season. My putting is better because I practiced more.

“I’m hoping for Top 5 in the states. I have to keep practicing and handle the pressure better.”

Tanabe said he had to overcome a slow start, and he’s encouraged about his finish.

“It was a good round; I started off a little rough, then I got it going,” Tanabe said. “I’ve been in this tournament the past two seasons, and I haven’t played as well. It means a lot to follow in my brothers’ (Alex and Chris) footsteps.”

Tanabe said maturity and experience was the key.

“My game has improved a lot, and I put it all together (Thursday),” he said. “I had a good back nine. My goal is to get to states. I need to focus and play a good round at Tom’s Run.”

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at [email protected] or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

Paul Schofield is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Paul by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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