Low scores the norm for Mars golf team
With six seniors and two juniors on the roster, the Mars boys golf team has plenty of experience.
The Planets have some talent, too.
Seniors Ben Mullins and Josh Bartley have been two of the WPIAL's top golfers in recent years. Both are regular participants in the WPIAL Class AAA individual playoffs. The two average around a score of 39 for nine-hole competitions.
“They are going to go out and shoot between 38-41 every time,” Mars coach Tim Tyler said. “These guys shoot 38 or 39 on our course and go to an away course and shoot 39 or 40. You can always rely on them. Consistency is what we look for, no matter where we play.”
Bartley has made it to the WPIAL Class AAA individual championship round his first three years — a program first. Bartley has another distinction.
He is one of four golfers to start at the varsity level as a freshman in Tyler's time coaching the Planets golfers. Bartley's teammates, junior Nick Hardt and Mullins, are two of the others.
“In the last 14 years, we've only had four of them,” Tyler said. “That tells you about their quality.”
Bartley, Mullins and Hardt are the team's top three golfers. Senior Dane Zortman and junior Brandon Ford round out the squad's top five.
“They are pretty good all around,” Tyler said. “They are good driving and with irons. They have good days when putting and bad days, the same as everyone else.”
Seniors Steve Adametz, Jake Kronenwetter and Ryan Huber round out the eight-person squad.
“They are all pretty even. It just depends on the day and the course. Just like the pros, some courses are fit to their game and sometimes it's not,” Tyler said.
“Those three were on the JV team the last three years, and this is their first opportunity to move up to the varsity level. They've played a lot of golf. Some of the courses they play on for junior varsity, we don't play on at the varsity level. That can make a big difference. The seniors have a different temperament of what's going on. They approach the game a little differently, which helps with the mental aspect.”
Maturity and experience are key for golfers, especially at the high school level.
“Sometimes, when young kids have one bad hole, they are done, for the most part,” Tyler said. “They'll never make that up. Every stroke counts. These guys are all pretty even keeled, though.”
Last year, the Planets went 11-5 and finished second in WPIAL Section 8-AAA, which is traditionally one of the most competitive groups in the district with Valley, Shady Side Academy, Highlands, Knoch and Hampton.
“Every year, everyone beats up on each other. It's home-course advantage here,” Tyler said.
“Teams are tough on their home course because they practice there and play there all time. You've got seniors who have played there 100 times, probably, between practices and playing through the summer. Then, you go to another team's course and you only might play there four times throughout your high school career, so there's always an advantage for home teams.”
The Planets remain strong at all grades.
“The older guys have been part of going to the playoffs and our junior varsity players are consistent,” Tyler said. “They lost two matches last year and three the year before. It's a real good feeder program for varsity. We have a couple of good freshmen and some juniors down there playing well.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.