Experienced lineup returns for Plum boys golf team
The Plum varsity boys golf team almost reached the .500 mark in section play last year.
The team was 5-6 heading into its final section match with rival Gateway, but the Gators upended the Mustangs in a match at Churchill Valley Country Club.
With almost everyone back from last year's squad, new Mustangs head coach Ron Richards is optimistic this team can make waves both individually and as a team.
“Everything's gone well,” Richards said. “It's been a nice transition. The players have responded nicely.”
Richards assessed the team on the first day of tryouts on Aug. 12, and a 12-player roster was finalized after three days of golf at Willowbrook Golf Club.
“The kids got to play a lot of golf last week, and we got to see what they can do out there,” Richards said. “The third day was for positioning.”
The finalized lineup had to make a quick transition, as Plum was slated to kick off its season Tuesday with a match against Fox Chapel at the Pittsburgh Field Club and a match against Franklin Regional on Wednesday at Oakmont Country Club.
Both matches were to be contested past the deadline for this week's edition.
Plum returns to action Friday at 3:15 p.m. against Kiski Area at Vandergrift Golf Club.
Richards said most of the team members played golf over the summer, from tournament action to lessons at Willowbrook Golf Club.
“A lot of them take golf seriously and want to get better. That makes it exciting for me to see that passion,” Richards said.
Richards noted some good competition in the tryouts and that some of the positions from the middle of the lineup on down could change throughout the season.
“I didn't have past seasons to compare it to, but some of the top kids stepped up and separated themselves,” Richards said.
Junior Andrew Reynolds competed at the WPIAL Class AAA championship tournament last season after advancing past the section qualifier and WPIAL semifinals.
“Talking to (former head coach) Keith (Nonnenberg), Andrew has put an emphasis on getting longer with his drives,” Richards said.
“He has a high standard for himself and his game. He fits the mold of a competitive kid. If he continues to progress, he has a strong future in golf.”
Junior Justin Sovak also is expected to be one of the top golfers this season after a strong sophomore campaign. Sovak and Reynolds finished as the top two on team last year in terms of average for nine-hole matches.
“He hits the ball really well,” Richards said. “I got to play a few holes with him, and he hits the ball solid. You can tell he's put some time into it. We have high expectations for him. He has that experience in the lineup.”
Sophomore Samantha Shumaker was the only female to try out for the team again this year, and Richards said he likes her determination.
“She loves the game and has a lot of confidence when she plays,” Richards said.
“She played in summer tournaments, and she is a good example to the younger kids of what it takes to get better.”
Shumaker got a chance to break away from the boys last year, and she qualified for the WPIAL individual championship tournament.
Richards said he also is counting on senior Ryan Kuhn, who returns to the team after not playing the past two seasons.
Also expected to contribute this season are returning players in senior J.P. Predmore; juniors Tyler Arnold, Richard Rossi and Tim McMullen; and sophomore Alex Pease.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.