Beehner punches ticket to PIAA finals tournament
Gateway freshman Johnna Beehner doesn't want her first varsity golf season to end.
She first survived the Section 3-AAA qualifier to advance to WPIALs.
At the WPIAL championship Oct. 1 at 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills, Beehner finished fifth and earned the right to move on in the postseason.
On Monday, she did it again, as she was one of six golfers in an 11-player AAA field at the PIAA Western Regional to punch tickets to the state finals.
Beehner shot a 14-over 86 at Tom's Run Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge in Blairsville.
She finished tied for fifth and earned a spot in the PIAA championship tournament, set for Monday and Tuesday at Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center in York.
“Johnna went into the regional tournament with a lot of confidence,” Gateway head coach Dennis Persin said.
“She was a little nervous at the start (of the WPIAL tournament) at 3 Lakes. She played well in her practice rounds (at Tom's Run), and this course was better suited to her ability. She knew what to expect. I was confident she would play well.”
The top six AAA and top 10 AA golfers qualified to the PIAA finals from the Western Regional.
Twelve AAA and eight AA golfers from the East will compete at states for a total field of 36.
Last year, four freshmen competed at the PIAA tournament, and three of the four finished in the top seven.
“To be in the top 18 in the state (in AAA) as a freshman is a great accomplishment,” Persin said.
“She's really gotten stronger as the season has gone on. She's worked hard, and the hard work has paid off.”
Windy and cold conditions dominated Monday's regional tournament.
“Scoring conditions were tough compared to the practice rounds,” Persin said.
“With the wind, some strategies were subject to change. Johnna seems bulletproof to any condition.”
Beehner started on No. 11 and double-bogeyed the hole. However, she maintained her composure and stayed amongst the leading group.
She collected her lone birdie on No. 9, the second-to-last hole of her round.
“I was near No. 9 when she was there, and I heard some cheering,” Persin said. “I hoped it was her. She had a number of family members there. She had a lot of support.
“That birdie on No. 9 was key. She played the hole well. It was a clutch performance.”
Beehner and North Allegheny's Megan Leto were the only two freshmen to compete in the AAA field at regionals.
Leto shot a 90 and finished one spot out of a qualifying position.
“I told Johnna that the (regional) score doesn't matter at states. It will be a new day,” Persin said.
The state tournament will be a 36-hole event, with 18 holes played each day.
Beehner is the first Gateway girls golfer since Caryn Doege in 2006 to compete at the PIAA Western Regional.
Doege finished 12th at the 2006 regional, only one stroke away from the final qualifying spot and a trip to states.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.