Sewickley Academy’s Tim Fitzgerald tames Allegheny CC, takes WPIAL Class AA title

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Thursday, October 1, 2020 | 5:34 PM


As he approached the 18th tee, Tim Fitzgerald asked a group marker where he stood on the leaderboard.

When he heard, “You’re up by three,” he exhaled but quickly regrouped before putting a peg in the ground for the final time Thursday.

“I still didn’t think it was over by any means,” the senior from Sewickley Academy said. “You never know what’s going to happen, especially on 18 with the pin in the front.”

Oh, it was over.

Fitzgerald went on to par the final hole, draining a testy, downhill putt to cap an even-par 70 and a five-shot victory in the WPIAL Class AA individual championship at Allegheny Country Club.

“Last year, watching our teammate (JF Aber) win was awesome, and I just wanted to put myself in a position to do that this year,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m very pleased. Just a good day all around.”

Runner-up Cole Villa, a senior from Leechburg, shot 75 for his best WPIAL finish in three attempts. He made a double bogey on 18.

Sewickley Academy sophomore Joey Mucci and Shenango senior Tom George tied for third at 76.

Fitzgerald shot 1-under 34 on the front nine despite starting with back-to-back bogeys. He birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 8.

“I only hit four greens but made three birdies,” he said. “I made some nice up and downs.”

He also birdied No. 10.

A native of York, Maine, Fitzgerald moved to Pennsylvania in seventh grade, around the time he took up golf.

“My first competitive tournament I shot 118,” he said. “I play a lot now.”

That debut is far cry from what Fitzgerald is doing now. He won a Hurricane Junior Tour event a couple of months ago at Hannastown Golf Club and added second- and third-place finishes to his summer resume.

“Tim has worked so hard on his game,” Sewickley Academy coach Win Palmer said. “He keeps getting better. His 9-hole average for this season is under par. What’s crazy is that he bogeyed the first two holes.”

Sewickley Academy, the seven-time defending WPIAL team champs, plays its home matches at Allegheny, so the Panthers’ six qualifiers know where to hit the ball.

“Part of being out here is fun because it is a course we get to play every day,” Fitzgerald said. “We know where to miss. If it’s a course you play every day, it helps. But there is a little bit of added pressure.”

Fitzgerald said his putter was his favorite club in the finals.

“Putting is something where you’re not going to get a bad bounce or something,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s part of the game you can control, relatively speaking. I feel like I made some good putts.”

Sewickley Academy now has three individual champions. Jason Li is the other, having won in 2015.

Mucci will be one to watch in the future.

“(Fitzgerald’s) putting and short game is really good,” said Mucci, who tied for 14th last year as a freshman. “He has a lot of confidence in his short game. I am happy with a 76. It’s a huge boost for me.”

Villa is Leechburg’s top WPIAL finisher since Matt Barto won back-to-back titles in 2012-13.

“I have played here three years in a row, and this is as tough as this course has played,” Villa said. “It was windy, and the greens were glass. I figured if I could shoot 75 or better, that would be a pretty good round. I played pretty well, but I doubled the last hole.”

The PIAA made a key postseason change, which many schools and media members just became aware of: It wiped out the Western and Eastern region tournaments, so players advance straight from the district tournaments to the PIAA championships.

The top 12 players Thursday moved on to states.

Other qualifiers are: Navin Rana of Sewickley Academy (78), Joey Toth of South Park (79), Luke Melisko of Quaker Valley (80), Kai Carlson of Northgate (81), Ben Ritenour of Greensburg Central Catholic (82), Kyle Rice of Quaker Valley (82), Joey Hudson of Ellwood City (83), and Kyle Clayton of Jefferson Morgan (83).

Rana made a hole-in-one on the 152-yard 15th.

The state tournament, set for Oct. 19, will be 18 holes on one day instead of 36 over two days.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at bbeckner@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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