Central Catholic's Rodgers claims WPIAL Class AAA crown
Brent Rodgers is an up-and-coming name on the long-drive circuit, where he routinely launches 400-yard drives into orbit.
The Central Catholic junior used his long-bombing skills — and a quietly sharp short game — to turn Fox Chapel Golf Club into his own personal pitch-and-putt Wednesday, and that carried him to the WPIAL Class AAA title.
The 16-year-old from Cranberry carded an even-par 70, making four birdies on the same course that hosted the Champions Tour's Senior Players Championship this summer. The 36-player WPIAL field played from the white tees, but that only enticed Rodgers to rip off the head cover even more.
“This course is too short for him,” said Indiana junior Matt Holuta, who finished second at 1-over 71.
Rodgers was hitting wedges and short irons into holes on a wet course that other players needed mid-irons and hybrids to reach.
“I hit it pretty well today,” he said. “The course played fair.”
Upper St. Clair junior Thomas Steve took third at 72, Latrobe teammates Will Wears and Chad Kissell matched 74s and four players tied for sixth at 75, including last year's PIAA runner-up, Tommy Nettles of Peters Township.
Wears was 2-under through seven but shot 40 on the back nine. Holuta, who had five birdies, had two holes to play when he found out what Rodgers shot. He made par on 17 and 18.
“I'm happy to be moving on,” he said.
The top 14 players advanced to the PIAA Western Regional tournament Oct. 15 at Tom's Run Golf Course.
“I was just thinking about advancing and playing at Tom's (Run),” said Rodgers, who tied for 28th last year. “I figured, if I played good and posted a decent number, a win would be a bonus.”
Rodgers' longest drive came on the 415-yard ninth. When the ball stopped rolling, he had a 70-yard pitch left into the green.
“He was hitting 75 yards past me,” said Plum sophomore Andrew Reynolds, who was in Rodgers' group. “He's the longest player I have seen.”
A flip wedge into the short par-4 12th gave him an easy birdie, and he chipped in for par on No. 13 after missing the fairway left.
“That kind of got me going and thinking maybe I could win this,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers advanced through local and regional qualifiers to make the Re/Max Long Drive Championship, set for Oct. 22-23 in Mesquite, Nev. That happens to be the same weekend as the PIAA championships in York.
“I might have a choice to make,” he said. “I'll probably going to pick states.”
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.