Sewickley Academy, Quaker Valley golfers shine at section qualifier

Sunday, October 3, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Section 9 was well represented at the WPIAL Class AA boys individual golf final Sept. 30 at Allegheny County Club.

Sewickley Academy’s Joey Mucci and Quaker Valley’s Ethan Dai easily eclipsed the qualifying mark of 85 at the earlier section qualifier also held at Allegheny Country Club, SA’s home course.

Mucci, a junior and third-year starter, shot a three-over par 73 at the qualifying event to earn medalist honor. He finished third in the WPIAL in 2020 and placed 10th at the PIAA finals.

“Joey has worked so hard on all aspects of his game. His ball striking and chipping are superb,” Sewickley coach Win Palmer said. “Joey has stepped into that No. 1 position (on the team) 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.”

Dai, a freshman, carded a 5-over-par 75, two strokes behind Mucci.

“Ethan had a steady, composed day,” QV coach Greg Vecchi said. “It’s a tough event on a challenging course, and he handled it like a senior who’s been there before. Ethan doesn’t get flustered. He just focuses on the ball in front of him the best he can, no matter what happened prior.

“My hope for Ethan is that he enjoys being on this team and that he knows he’s a giant part of Quaker Valley golf. He already has made a big mark in the program in just a little over a month’s time. The older golfers respect him and his game.”

It was Dai’s first time competing at a section qualifier at the high school level.

“I think I played pretty well,” he said.

Eight golfers from Section 9 advanced to the WPIAL individual final.

Along with Mucci, Sewickley’s Nick Straka, Severin Harmon and Will Duggan all qualified.

“I feel like I played decently at the qualifier,” Straka said. “I started out pretty well but didn’t finish as well as I would’ve liked. It was a very fun experience, and I enjoyed playing with the golfers in my group.”

Straka, a junior, shot an 81 at the qualifier. Harmon, a freshman, zeroed in on an 82 score, and Duggan, a senior multisport athlete, ended up two strokes behind at 84.

“Nick has developed a quality swing that he trusts in critical situations. His putting is much improved,” Palmer said. “Will is our No. 2 man. He is a gutsy senior who enjoys playing in the big moment as he has demonstrated throughout his career in helping our team be so successful.

“Severin is a freshman who has accepted the challenges of playing varsity golf. His tempo on his swing has improved so much.”

It was the third consecutive WPIAL finals appearance for Mucci and Duggan. Both talked about their day at the section qualifier that led up to the championship event.

“I was pleased with my performance,” Mucci 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.”

Duggan thought it was a good learning experience.

“I did not play my best golf during the section qualifier,” he said. “I hit one out on hole 1 and had to take a seven on that hole and another hole. I think it showed my ability to grind through a tough circumstance because I had to continue to play good golf knowing that I didn’t have many shots to spare. I think this experience will help me in the future when I’m in a tough spot.”

Dai, meanwhile, led the way for two other Quaker Valley golfers at the qualifier, as senior Adam Tanabe and junior Jackson Bould shot 80 and 81, respectively.

“Adam had a fairly smooth day,” Vecchi said. “He just carried over his great golfing from the regular season to this pressured event. Adam treats every match as if it’s the most important one ever. He tries so hard for himself and the team. He’s been scoring really well.”

Tanabe made his second WPIAL finals appearance this year.

“I played well at the qualifier, but as it goes in every round of golf, it was not perfect,” he said. “As for last year’s WPIAL finals, too many mistakes led to a disappointing round, and I lost a playoff for a reserve spot in the PIAA finals. These failures taught me a lot and served as a motivator for this year.”

Bould advanced to the WPIAL championships for a third consecutive time.

“I got to watch Jackson all day (at the qualifier) since I marked his group,” Vecchi said. “He had a couple of rough patches early in his round, but seemed to forget about them very quickly.

“Jackson adjusts nicely. He has such a sweet swing. If he falters, he makes the necessary adjustments to stay on track.”

Bould is known to be an aggressive hitter, but he’s also smart in picking and choosing when to be aggressive.

“I played pretty well, honestly, even though my (qualifying) score might not show the same,” he said. “I couldn’t limit the damage on my bad holes, which ended up costing me a ton of strokes. I was 9-over on my worst four holes, 2-over on the other 14. I wasn’t deterred by any means.

“Not having higher than a bogey on any given hole has been my Achilles heel.”

The eighth qualifier from the section was Beaver County Christian’s Micah Guervara, a senior who logged an 83.

A total of 72 boys advanced to the WPIAL AA individual tournament. Nine section qualifiers were held, each with its own target score.

“It was a windy, rainy day (for the Section 9 linksters), and I was impressed by the ability of our golfers to remain focused despite the difficult conditions on a challenging golf course,” said Palmer, who also is the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Sewickley Academy.

“Putting is especially important on small, quick greens, and our guys putted the ball well.”

QV’s Bulger earns sectional medalist honor

Quaker Valley junior standout Eva Bulger qualified for the WPIAL Class AA girls individual finals off her performance at the Section 1 qualifier at Del Mar Golf Club.

Bulger captured her second straight sectional medalist honor, claiming the Section 1-AA title by six strokes with a 5-over 76. She was one of 12 golfers who beat the cut-off score of 96.

The WPIAL girls golf finals will take place Oct. 7 at Hannastown Golf Club in Greensburg. Bulger will play in a foursome that also includes Greensburg Central Catholic’s Meghan Zambruno, Central Valley’s Mya Mrkonja and Geibel Catholic’s Claire Konieczny.

The left-handed hitting Bulger has designs on a three-peat after winning two consecutive WPIAL titles.

In 2019, Bulger was the WPIAL 2A champion thanks to her 10-over par 82 at Diamond Run. She improved her winning score by five strokes last year.

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