Cast of characters gets Freeport into WPIAL golf finals
With one of its deepest groups in program history, Freeport's golf team faced the challenge of finding the optimal six-person starting lineup this season.
After much mixing and matching, the Yellowjackets settled on a combination that has reached a rare level of success.
Freeport reached the WPIAL team finals for the first time since 1994 due to the performance of seniors Ryley Cowan, Luke Mariotti, Robbie Miller and Richard VanDruff, junior Cole Hepler and freshman Audrey Clawson. Those six delivered a second-place finish at the WPIAL Class AA boys team golf semifinal at Indian Run Golf Course Tuesday. And they'll contend for the team's first WPIAL title today at the Class AA championship at Cedarbrook Golf Course near Belle Vernon.
Meet the six who put Freeport in the mix.
Mariotti cringed a bit Wednesday night when he heard the suggestion he served as the father figure for Freeport. He preferred the more age-appropriate “big brother.”
“I try to be a strong leader, someone for them to look up to,” said Mariotti, who shot an 88 in the semifinal.
Mariotti's maturity extends beyond teammate management, though. At the practice round at Cedarbrook Golf Course on Wednesday, he found a high-priced range finder on the ground.
Teammates suggested he keep it. Instead, he tracked down the owner — a boy he suspects might be a WPIAL championship opponent.
Miller secured high-profile spots in the basketball and baseball lineups last season. But before he became a two-sport contributor, he caught attention as a freshman on the golf course.
He shot 79 to tie Clawson for the team low in the semifinal.
“I don't feel like I have to go out and shoot even-par because I know there are five other guys that can shoot in the 70s,” Miller said.
VanDruff, like Miller, started as a freshman on Freeport's 2009 section title team. And this season, he placed first in the Section 3-AA individual qualifier with a 76.
But VanDruff's greatest gift, he and his teammates agree, is the way he can psych out opponents.
“I get in people's heads,” VanDruff said.
Hepler has what teammates described as a “PG-13” sense of humor.
“I make everybody laugh and lighten the mood,” said Hepler, who finished with an 84 in the semifinal.
Clawson, a freshman, leaves the clowning around to her elder male counterparts.
“I just go out there and try to do my best,” said Clawson, who placed fourth in the WPIAL Class AA girls individual championship.
Cowan finished with a 90 in the semifinal. The score didn't count toward the team total. But it showed that Freeport didn't drop off after five golfers.
“I really think if high school golf (lineups) were eight kids or even 10 kids,” Cowan said, “we'd definitely go this far.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.