Three WPIAL golfers capture state championships

Tuesday, October 23, 2018 | 7:27 PM

YORK — On the back of Palmer Jackson’s golf cap is an umbrella pin to honor legendary golfer Arnold Palmer.

The Franklin Regional senior was named after the golf great, and he feels there is a connection between them.

“It’s like I’m related to him,” Jackson said after winning his first PIAA Class AAA golf championship Tuesday at Heritage Hills Golf Resort. “It’s an honor to be on a list that includes him.”

Arnold Palmer was a PIAA champion in 1946 and ’47.

Jackson won the tournament in Arnold Palmer style. He was tied for first after Round 1 on Monday and began Round 2 with three consecutive pars.

Then, he sank a 15-foot birdie putt, and over the next two hours, Jackson put on a show. He made six birdies over the next seven holes and quickly stretched his lead to five shots, eventually earning victory with a 36-hole score of 2-under-par 140.

“What Palmer did was amazing,” Central Catholic senior Jimmy Meyers said. “He was so good it was laughable. He was playing great.”

Meyers used a strong finish — three birdies in his final four holes — to place second at 2-over. Meyers was 1-under for the second round.

“Winning a state title means a lot,” Jackson said. “I put more emphasis on the tournaments I play in the summer. But this is special.”

Jackson shot 2-over 73 on Monday, but his putter and short game got hot during the final round. He was making all his putts, something he didn’t do Monday.

“It was a lot of fun,” Jackson said. “I told my dad at dinner on Monday that I wanted a ‘6’ in the front of my score, and he told me it better be Tuesday.”

It was the fourth time Jackson placed in the state tournament. He was second in 2017, and he’s also the first champion in school history.

Meyers said he knew he couldn’t catch Jackson halfway through the round, so he decided to do his best.

“I was pleased how I finished,” Meyers said. “I played great down the stretch.”

Meyers’ twin sister, Jessica, a senior at Oakland Catholic, survived an unfavorable ruling, to place fifth (14-over).

Fox Chapel senior Gregor Meyer placed fifth (5-over), and Latrobe senior Brady Pevarnik placed ninth (9-over). It was the third time Pevarnik placed at PIAAs.

Repeat for Smithco

North Catholic junior Maddie Smithco not only had to battle a tough Class AA girls field, she had to survive a medical scare during the final round to repeat as champion.

Smithco, who has a history of concussions, nearly passed out after playing eight holes when she became ill. The PIAA officials gave her a 15-minute recovery time, and she continued.

Her dad, Joe, said she played the final 10 holes with vertigo. She was able to par the final hole and pumped her fist. She was 5-over in the final round and finished with an 11-over 155.

“It was a thrilling finish,” Smithco said. “I had a little concussion issue, so I was struggling. But I was able to battle through and played as hard as I could.”

“I have symptoms that carry on. I got a break and then continued on. There was a lot of pressure on me, but there were a lot of good golfers.”

WPIAL Class AA boys champion, Riverside junior Skyler Fox, tied for fourth at 10-over, and Sewickley Academy junior J.F. Aber was fifth (12-over). Tying for 10th were North Catholic senior Trey Bartony and Bentworth senior Luke Dziak (14-over).

Burrell’s Tiger Hubbard finished tied for 19th (22-over).

First for North Allegheny

North Allegheny senior Caroline Wrigley also made history by winning the Class AAA girls title. Wrigley is the first NA golfer to win a state title, and she breezed to the gold, shooting 3-over 147 and winning by seven strokes.

Uniontown senior Danae Rugola tied for second (10-over), and South Fayette freshman Caroline McConnell finished fourth (13-over).

“It’s really cool to be the school’s first state golf champion,” Wrigley said. “My putting was really on. I didn’t miss inside 10 feet, and I was making great par saves. My driver was also good. I hit a lot of fairways.”

It was the third time Wrigley placed at the state tournament.

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

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