Young Fox Chapel girls golf team has no seniors, plenty of victories

Saturday, September 24, 2022 | 11:01 AM

After losing five seniors from last year’s WPIAL girls golf championship team, Fox Chapel isn’t missing a beat.

The team is off to a 9-1 start with no seniors on the squad.

“They’re a very young team for what they’ve accomplished,” said coach Christine Smith. “We have two juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen.”

Freshman Laila Golla has been in the No. 1 spot, shooting in the 45-50 range.

Sophomore Baustin Bitar, the only freshman starter in last year’s championship victory over Peters Township, continues to play well. Junior Lucy Rygelski also got to see action last season.

“Baustin and Lucy are our two captains,” Smith said. ‘They’ve really helped out with the rigor and making sure everybody is excited to be at practice and be part of the team. Lucy knows the rules very, very well and is good at helping everybody out there.”

Rygelski is also a caddy at the Foxes’ home course, the Pittsburgh Field Club, located close to the high school campus.

Said Smith: “She knows the yardage of the course, what clubs to use. She just has a good knowledge of the course and shares that with everybody. We also get to practice there. It’s a nice course in beautiful condition.”

Rounding out the team are sophomore starters Gabby DeVitia and Kelly Francis Perka, along with junior Molly O’Donnell and freshmen Morgan Monteverde and Molly Classen.

Last week at the Section 4-3A tournament, Golla shot a 90 for 18 holes at Buffalo Golf Course and ranked second to Butler’s Paige Panteous. She qualified for the first round of the WPIAL individual tournament.

It’s been a triumphant return to the coaching ranks for Smith, a 30-year educator at Fox Chapel.

“When I came to Fox Chapel, some girls from that team asked if I’d consider becoming the golf coach, and I did it 22 years ago,” Smith recalled. “I had my children and it was too much to juggle. Then it almost fell in my lap again about 10 days before the season. It’s really been fun and the girls have been great and I’ve gotten to know them very well.”

Smith, a Fox Chapel graduate, has already said she’ll come back next year if the school district wants her to.

On the immediate docket is a chance to win the 15th team section title in school history.

The team playoff finals will be Oct. 13 at Cedarbrook Country Club.

The individual tournament was scheduled to begin Sept. 26 at Youghiogheny Country Club with scores carrying over to the finals Oct. 3 at Valley Brook Country Club.

Smith has noticed a higher caliber of play than her first coaching stint 22 years ago.

“Overall, the equipment has changed, the clubs are different, and they can hit it farther than ever before,” Smith said. “By the time my girls become juniors and seniors, we’re really going to be able to shoot a lot lower. I see already from the start of the season the four counting scores are now under 200.”


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