WPIAL champion golfers Bulger, Fitzgerald eager for PIAA tournament

Sunday, October 11, 2020 | 11:01 AM

When the WPIAL Class AA field left Allegheny Country Club on Oct. 1, Sewickley Academy and Quaker Valley golfers had won district gold.

Quaker Valley’s Eva Bulger captured her second straight girls title, shooting a 4-over-par 77 to cruise past twin sisters Meghan (79) and Ella (82) Zambruno from Greensburg Central Catholic for the second year in a row.

On the boys’ side, Sewickley Academy senior Tim Fitzgerald captured his first WPIAL title by shooting an even-par, 70, becoming the second straight Sewickley Academy golfer to win the event.

Bulger, a sophomore who plays on the boys team and helped the Quakers defeat Sewickley Academy twice in section play this year, was free of nerves throughout her round.

She tallied four birdies, carded eight pars and, at one point, built a seven-stroke lead.

Midway through the back-nine, after back-to-back double bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14, Bulger saw her lead shrink to three strokes. But she didn’t feel any pressure.

“I was playing pretty well, so I wasn’t really thinking at all,” Bulger said. “I was just trying to focus on one shot at a time.”

With electronic scoring in place during the WPIAL championships, Bulger could have peeked to see where she stood after her double bogeys. She said she was glad that she didn’t.

“I really had no idea,” Bulger said with a laugh. “I wouldn’t have wanted to have known. I think it probably would’ve messed me up.”

Bulger steadied over the final four holes to finish her championship round.

“It’s nice to win it again, and I played better this time around but it didn’t really feel any different,” Bulger said.

Fitzgerald doesn’t remember having a worse start to a round of 18 at Allegheny Country Club — and he plays his home matches there.

Fitzgerald bogeyed his first two holes but rallied with two birdies on the front nine and a third on No. 10 before cruising to a five-stroke victory over Leechburg’s Cole Villa.

“Those first two holes were weird. I was a little bit nervous, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t grip a club or anything like that. I just played those first two holes a little sloppy.” Fitzgerald said. “I saw my coach, and he told me I was fine and to just relax and have fun out there. After that, I hit a nice two-putt and then birdied two holes and was able to calm down from there.”

Bulger and Fitzgerald move on to the PIAA Class AA championship Oct. 19 at Heritage Hills in York.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic the PIAA canceled regional events this year, and the top six girls girls and top 12 boys advanced to the state championship. The tournament will be 18 holes instead of a two-day, 36-hole event.

Fitzgerald is excited for the opportunity. Last year, he missed qualifying after losing in a five-way playoff for four spots.

“That was tough,” Fitzgerald said. “So coming into this year, after finding out regionals wouldn’t be happening, just trying to get into the top 12 was really my main goal for the day. But making states is a really big accomplishment, and I’m happy to do it in my senior year for the first time. It’s a good way to go out.”

As a freshman, Bulger tied for seventh at states with Hickory’s McKenzie Gustas. She was the youngest player in the top 15 finishers, and she is ready for another opportunity.

“I feel like I’m playing pretty well. I’ll just have to go down there and get a strategy together for what I’m going to do,” Bulger said.

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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