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Beehner, teammates ready to guide program improvement at Gateway

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Gary Bills | For The Times Express
Gateway sophomore Johnna Beehner competed at both the WPIAL and PIAA girls golf championships as a freshman in 2012.
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Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

As a freshman last fall, Johnna Beehner lived up to the positive preseason credit heaped upon her by Gateway varsity girls golf head coach Dennis Persin.

She led the team in scoring average, carding a season-best 37 in the Gators 222-227 upset of Fox Chapel, and she made waves by qualifying for not only the WPIAL championship but the PIAA tournament, as well.

Beehner finished fifth at WPIALs, and she was one of only two freshmen to place in the top 10.

She then took 14th at the Class AAA state competition and was one of only three freshmen in the 18-player field.

Beehner returns to the team this fall hoping to improve on her freshman performances and help Gateway improve as a team.

“Johnna had a very productive summer and gained a ton of valuable experience,” Persin said.

“She played well like I expected her to. She's been a leader and very encouraging to her teammates, especially the younger players.”

Beehner had a huge summer on the golf course.

She won a tournament on the Kings Restaurant/Tri-State PGA Junior Tour and captured three Keystone's Premier Golf Association tournament championships.

She won the KPGA State Championship in her age group and earned KPGA Player-of-the-Year recognition.

Beehner, Persin said, also represented Pennsylvania against Ohio in a junior golf challenge and had the opportunity to attend a prestigious golf camp hosted by the University of North Carolina which has led to some college interest.

Persin welcomed Beehner and nine others to the first day of practices on Aug. 12, and the 10 players are split between five returnees and five newcomers.

Abbi Semnisky, the only senior on the roster, also returns, as do juniors Julia Hyzy, Ashley Klein and Kendall Alexander.

Persin said Semnisky and Beehner entered this week as the only two players locked into the starting lineup.

“Abbi has played a lot of golf this summer, and she is working on her consistency of hitting good shots,” Persin said. “It's a matter of putting all aspects of her game together.”

Persin said Hyzy, Klein and Alexander also got some good golf experience this summer, and being more consistent will be key for them, as well.

“The interest level has gone up in terms of playing in the offseason compared to past seasons,” Persin said.

“Hopefully, that will lead to better results.”

Also battling for one of the five starting spots on varsity, Persin said, is freshman Cassie Kokal.

Kokal, Persin said, has participated in junior programs and has taken lessons.

“It will be interesting to see how Cassie performs when she gets into these matches for the first time,” Persin said.

Persin said the other four new players joined the team with the understanding that they will use this season to explore their interest in golf further and continue work on developing their skills.

Gateway scrimmaged Bethel Park last week at Valley Brook Country Club in McMurray, and Beehner shot a event-best 38 on what Persin said was a very challenging golf course.

The Gators were slated to open up Section 3-AAA action Tuesday against Penn-Trafford at Murrysville Golf Club. Match results were not available as of deadline for this week's edition.

Gateway continues early-season action in section with a match against Kiski Area on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. at Vandergrift Golf Course.

The Gators hosts Fox Chapel in Section 3 play on Tuesday at 3 p.m. at Murrysville Golf Course.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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