Youthful Talbots swing into golf season

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Saturday, August 14, 2021 | 10:01 AM


The Hampton golf team has gone from experienced and good to inexperienced and maybe good.

“This should be an interesting team,” ninth-year coach Bruce Steckel said. “This is not a veteran golf team by any means. But I’m kind of enthused because the kids that are here are enthusiastic. They really want to be here, they want to play, and they are young.”

The Talbots graduated six of their top golfers, including former WPIAL Class 3A qualifier Matt Ruzomberka, WPIAL semifinalist Robert Leppert and three-time WPIAL girls qualifier Arianna Erka, from a 13-win team.

“I’ll have to see if I’m really worth my pay this year,” Steckel said.

Senior captain Jake Twerdok, a four-year starter, will lead the Talbots, who open their 16-match 2021 schedule against visiting North Allegheny on Aug. 19 at Wildwood.

Other top golfers are senior Alex Broderick, who showed vast improvement last season, and promising junior Daniel Venture. Sophomore Matthew Erka, Arianna’s brother, also is expected to be one of the top golfers, with fellow sophomores David Poirier and Avish Vyas making strides this summer.

“We have a lot of younger people and a lot of new faces coming into the varsity scene,” Venture said. “It will be different. But I’m looking for it to be a good year. I think there will be a learning curve for the start of the season, but they will pick it up pretty quickly and adapt pretty quickly.”

Twerdok is working to advance past WPIAL sectionals for the first time this season after a couple of recent near-misses. He attended every optional team workout this offseason, Steckel said.

“I normally see that with kids who really want to do well in that last year, or even any year,” Steckel said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that Jake is the No. 1 guy. He’s got the bug right now. He’s ready to go, and that’s good to see.”

The Talbots last season missed the WPIAL Class 3A team playoffs for the first time since Steckel arrived, falling one win shy behind perennial powers Fox Chapel and Shady Side Academy in Section 8-3A. Hampton finished 13-5 with a section victory over Shady Side Academy but was left home for the postseason as only the top two teams in each section advance.

“We had a good year,” Steckel said.

The Talbots face another challenge this season in a section comprised of Fox Chapel, Shady Side Academy, Freeport, Highlands, Kiski Area and Knoch.

Venture, a 5-foot-4, 125-pounder, said he played a lot this summer, including a round at Harbour Town in Hilton Head, S.C., regarded as one of the top 20 public golf courses in the United States. Also a talented hockey player, Venture has lengthened his average drive to about 250-265 yards, he said.

“I’ve improved a lot from the tee box,” he said. “I train a lot for hockey in the summer, so that correlates to on the course a little bit.”

Hampton was expected to draw about 22 players to tryouts. Steckel will keep eight players on the varsity roster and likely 12 on the junior varsity roster. He says the fewer players he has to cut, the better off the Talbots will be.

“Golf is one of those things where these kids can be really bad as freshmen,” he said, “and then all of a sudden they show up the next year and they are good.”

Earlier this summer, Twerdok expressed optimism to his coach about the team’s chances.

“He was the first one to come up to me and say, ‘You know, coach, we’ve got a pretty good team this year,’ ” Steckel said. “I said, ‘Yeah, we do, but we have to put it together because we are all young.’ We don’t know what these kids can do under pressure.”

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