Upper St. Clair duo advances to PIAA golf tournament
This season, Grant Engel and Thomas Steve served as Upper St. Clair's one-two punch on the golf course and the pair hope to continue their success in the PIAA state tournament.
Steve, third-place finalist in the WPIAL, and Engel, who finished seventh at WPIALs, qualified for the state championship after shooting 75 and 77, respectively, Monday in the PIAA Western Regional at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville.
The PIAA individual championship is set for Oct. 22 and 23 at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York.
Panthers' head coach Todd Flynn has seen great improvement in the duo's games and maturation, and despite USC failing to reach the WPIAL team finals, he said he is happy with how they performed.
“As far as proud, I'm already to that point,” Flynn said. “There's no coach out there any more proud of his kids than I am.”
Upper St. Clair shot its worst round as a team, Flynn said, at the WPIAL team semifinals at Butler's Golf Course in Elizabeth on Oct. 9. However, he said the school district will be well-represented in the state tournament.
“It was very rough for us to lose in the semis because we expected to go out there and, like coach says, teams aren't going to bow down to us,” Steve said. “We learned that the hard way. That should make us stronger for next year.”
Engel and Steve have become friends over the years, and their time on the golf course brought them closer.
But as each prepares to capture the highest honor in the state, they know that doing so means they'll have to beat each other.
“This year, every match we've played together, and it's been a great partnership,” Engel said. “We've been pretty dominant. Vying for the same spot (at states) will be difficult, but as a friend, whoever comes out on top deserves it, and I'm sure the other will be congratulatory.”
Added Steve: “We try to beat each other, and we know if we do we should be fine playing other kids. We've grown a lot the last few years getting to play together every day.”
In the offseason. Steve said he focused on improving his short game and Engel transformed his swing with the help of a swing coach to eliminate a 25-yard push hook.
For 16-year olds, Flynn said their demeanor allows them to be successful and recover in the event that they hit a bad shot.
“Thomas very rarely gets himself into trouble (on the course) so that is his strength,” Flynn said. “Grant, if he does get himself in trouble, he has the ability to scramble out of it and recover.
“They are both admirable tendencies to have. You don't want to be in trouble but they can get out.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.