Young Hampton golf team posts another playoff season

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Thursday, October 18, 2018 | 8:27 PM


The Hampton golf team had some young players carrying bags this season. Enough to expect a letdown.

But by the end of the year, for the fifth year in a row, the Talbots earned a playoff berth. They finished 10-2 in section matches, good for second place in Section 8-AAA. It inspired plenty of optimism for next season.

“At the beginning of the year, it was a young team,” coach Bruce Steckel said. “There was only one senior. I looked at it as, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. But I thought it was a rebuilding year. But they seemed to kick it into gear.”

Led by senior Cal Cummins and sophomore Matthew Ruzomburka, the team cruised through the section with the exception of two losses to Shady Side Academy, which placed third at the WPIAL finals.

“I did not think we were going to be that good,” said Cummins, who cited the team’s late-season two-stroke victory to keep rival Mars from making the playoffs as a great memory. “I was very pleased with how the whole team came together.”

Hampton’s playoff showing wasn’t quite up to par. The team shot 436, finishing seventh out of eight teams in its semifinal bracket.

Steckel thought the young squad may have been a bit in awe of the new playoff experience.

“I told them, you can’t let this one match ruin the season. You had a great season. Nobody expected you to go 10-2. Now, we need to learn from it and remember that next year you don’t want to taste this feeling.”

Hampton had two players competing in their respective individual finals, though only one score counted. Still, for Ruzomberka, who is likely to continue as the team’s ace next year, it was a treat to play at Oakmont Country Club as an alternate.

He finished second out of five in a playoff to determine an alternate spot at the WPIAL semifinals. When the entire field showed at Oakmont, he was unable to grab a spot. However, he was able to play for fun anyway.

“I felt bad for him, but he got to play Oakmont,” Steckel said. “He said he’d never played a course like that, so it was a good experience for him. I’m glad he played and thought he had a good time.”

Sophomore Ariana Erka made waves as well in the girls division, reaching the WPIAL finals and finishing 26th.

“She’s only a sophomore so that’s a good learning experience for her,” Steckel said.

Cummins ran into a stroke of bad luck after playing a solid front nine at sectionals.

He encountered a downpour halfway through the back nine while in contention to advance and was required to return the next day and start the back nine over. The lone senior, who is looking at Westminster and Allegheny among other schools, was unable to replicate his performance.

“It was a mental game,” he said. “I played those five holes well that day, and then it was all in my head. It was tough to think about afterward that I was able to get that close.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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