Sewickley Academy’s J.F. Aber captures WPIAL gold at Class AA boys golf championships

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Thursday, September 26, 2019 | 4:09 PM


Riverside’s Skyler Fox was gunning to become the first golfer in WPIAL history to win four straight individual boys championships.

If it wasn’t for Sewickley Academy’s J.F. Aber, Fox would’ve done it.

With an even-par score of 70, Aber held off Fox by one stroke to capture his first WPIAL Class AA golf title Thursday at Allegheny Country Club.

“I’ve really wanted to win this tournament ever since I qualified for it my sophomore year,” Aber said. “I came up short last year, so I worked hard, kept my head down and came out on top this time.”

Since he was young, Aber has made Allegheny Country Club his home. His dad, Greensburg native John Aber, is the club pro, Sewickley Academy plays its home matches there, and he’s played the course countless times. But home-course advantage didn’t give him any extra confidence.

“I’m not gonna lie. I was pretty nervous,” Aber said.

That showed early. After he started with a birdie on No. 1, Aber said he was feeling good, but back-to-back bogeys quickly changed his demeanor.

“I just got a little nervous and kinda got a little mad at myself,” Aber said. “I think it affected how I played those holes. I three-putted No. 2, and it had to be from within 10 feet. So, it was just nerves and then settling back down.”

He responded with birdies on No. 6 and 8 to get back in the red on the front nine with a 1-under 34. From there, Aber was in cruise control, carding two birdies and three pars over the next five holes until he ran into trouble late.

The Sewickley Academy senior bogeyed three of his final four holes, and if it wasn’t for one or two great recovery shots, it could’ve been worse.

On No. 17, Aber put his second shot over the green and recovered with a chip shot within a foot of the hole for an easy par.

That putt provided Aber a two-stroke lead heading into No. 18, but with a three-time WPIAL champion breathing down his neck, no lead was safe.

Fox had just carded a birdie on the 17th and was feeling confident.

“I felt like I was still in it,” Fox said. “I hit it close and then made the putt, so I knew I needed to make birdie on 18 to have a chance.”

Fox came as close as anyone could. After a solid second shot landed just off the front of the green, the Riverside senior took a lob wedge and bounced his chip shot off the flagstick.

“I watched it the whole time,” Aber said. “If it went in, it meant trouble for me. But it just missed. I got another chance, so I took advantage of it.”

Just two strokes separated Fox from a fourth WPIAL boys championship, something that hasn’t been accomplished in more than 70 years of WPIAL boys golf. At times throughout the day, Fox made it seem like there was a chance he would become the first one to do it.

There were his two birdies on the front nine that kept him in the running. Then a chip in on No. 11 helped him recover from back-to-back bogeys. While he was always two or three strokes behind until the very end, he was never out of it.

How it ended showed exactly how difficult it is to accomplish such a feat.

“It definitely was very hard,” Fox said.

The top 18 finishers qualified for the PIAA Western Regional, set for Oct. 15 at Tom’s Run Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort in Blairsville.

In addition to Aber and Fox, qualifiers were Chartiers-Houston’s Spencer Kane (73) and Jack Hritsko (76); Sewickley Academy’s Tim Fitzgerald (74), Navin Rana (77) and Joey Mucci (82); Quaker Valley’s Aidan Bulger (75); Riverside’s Justin Hand (75); Mt. Pleasant’s Tim Pisula (78); Deer Lakes’ Will Meyer (78); South Park’s Stone Ellis (79); Shenango’s Tommy George (80); Carmichaels’ Remmey Lohr (81); Seton LaSalle’s Jacob Verner (82); Hopewell’s Jason Zipfel (83); Derry’s Aidan Bushey (84); and Neshannock’s Liam McGann (84).

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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