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Sewickley Academy, Quaker Valley boys golf teams among WPIAL contenders

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:34 p.m.

When the Class AA boys golf programs take to the course to compete for the WPIAL team title in 2013, don't be surprised if the representatives from Section 9 are Quaker Valley and Sewickley Academy again.

Both team return plenty of talent to compete as a group and have golfers looking for individual glory.

The Panthers enter the season as one of the top squad's in Class AA looking to challenge defending WPIAL champion Burgettstown. Sewickley Academy finished four strokes behind the Blue Devils last season to take silver for the second straight season.

“Golf is one of the few sports in which you cannot defend,” coach Win Palmer said. “We throughout the year had the lowest team average and we played really well in the semifinals. We got to Cedarbrook and didn't play as well as Burgettstown.

“We are very excited, and we have set individual goals in addition to wanting to compete for a WPIAL and state title.”

Senior Keenan Hickton will lead Sewickley Academy after a strong season in 2012. He finished sixth at the WPIAL Class AA championships as he shot 10-over par at the 18-hole Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center in York.

Hickton won the Oakmont Junior Club Championship and was the only high school player to qualify for the West Penn Amateur Golf Championship this summer.

“He was the team captain as a junior and should have a solid season,” coach Win Palmer said.

He will be joined by three returning starters — juniors Anthony Muscato and Chris Johnson and sophomore Scott Brown. Seniors Sam Duerr, Neal Houston and Bobby Hapanowicz all were alternatives last season and are looking for a larger role this year. Junior Max Hammel had the junior varsity low average (43.1) last season.

Freshman Jason Li, Sam Sauter and Declan Hickton are also looking to make the varsity roster.

The team held tryouts at Stonewall Resort in central West Virginia and will use two tournaments this week to finalize the roster. The Chairman's Cup was held Monday at Cedarbrook Golf Course and the Ponderosa Shootout will be held Thursday at Ponderosa Golf Course.

“If the players had their way, we would be playing an 18-hole tournament every day,” Palmer said. “We have a nice mix of players from each grade that are highly committed.”

Quaker Valley, meanwhile, will need to contend with the graduation of three varsity golfers but have plenty of talent to fill the void. There will be extra motivation for the Quakers to find success as the WPIAL Class AA individual finals will be held at Sewickley Heights, the team's home course.

Junior Alex Tanabe will be the squad's No. 1 player for a second straight season. He served as the team's No. 6 player as a freshman before taking the top spot a year ago.

“He was the No. 6 player as a freshman when all five starters were seniors,” coach Matt Welch said. “I treated him as a senior last year. This year, it will be like having another coach.”

Alex's younger brother Chris, a freshman, will be looking for a spot on the varsity team. Senior Zach Mancuso will likely be the team's No. 2 player and is a second-year starter.

The Quakers return to the course at 3 p.m. Monday to face Rochester at Rolling Acres.

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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