Central Valley's McDanel to compete for Junior PGA title
Few golfers have had their game fall into place as neatly as Central Valley High School's Maddy McDanel.
Hardly any have done it at such a young age.
McDanel, 15, a rising sophomore, has won three prominent tournaments this year. The most recent of which earned her a spot in a significant national tournament.
McDanel won the Tri-State Section Junior PGA Championship on July 17 at Fox Run Golf Club in Beaver Falls. Doing so qualified her for the national Junior PGA Championship from July 30 to Aug. 2 at Trump National Golf Club in Potomac Falls, Va.
“I'm very excited,” said McDanel, who helped lead Central Valley to the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA girls' golf team championships last fall. “I'm just trying to play as well as I can down there. I've heard the course is very difficult, but my goals are still pretty high.”
McDanel is expected to be one of the youngest — if not the youngest — competitor at the Junior PGA Championship, which is open to players 18 and younger. To qualify for the event, she beat out the field of 16- to 18-year-olds at the Tri-State junior championship.
McDanel shot an even par 72 to win the 14-15 age group by seven shots. She then prevailed in a playoff to win the overall title, beating Central Valley teammate (and defending Tri-State Junior PGA champion) Macky Fouse to earn the national qualifier berth.
“We're pretty close and pretty good friends, but there was no drama, so it was fun,” McDanel said.
Fouse finished one spot ahead of McDanel at the WPIAL Class AA individual golf championship last fall, taking second to McDanel's third. A similar scenario played out at the PIAA championship that followed on Oct. 22 — Fouse, then a junior, placed third and McDanel fourth.
“Maddy's very dedicated and works very hard at golf,” Central Valley coach Larry Milosh said. “She really doesn't have any weaknesses — she drives it pretty long and straight, and she has all the attributes of a great player.
“Her and Macky are good friends, so they push each other, and the other girls on our team do, too. What they all have in common is motivation. (McDanel) is only going to be a sophomore in high school next year, so we are expecting really good things from her.”
McDanel, who first golfed when she was 8 years old, considers putting to be the strength of her game when she is playing well.
Her other tournament victories this year were in the girls' division at the Western Pennsylvania major of the International Junior Golf Tour at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in April and at the Golfweek Junior Tour stop at Avalon Lakes in Warren, Ohio, when she was the low scorer in her age group.
There probably will be many more wins in McDanel's future.
“I definitely want to golf in college,” she said. “I just really love golf and want it to be part of my (life's) career somehow.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.