Hempfield golfers a pleasant surprise for coach
Brian Spang entered the golf season treating his lineup like a crossword puzzle, trying to fit the right name in the right spot.
Spang, coach of the Hempfield boys golf team, struggled to fill out his six-man rotation a year removed from sending a group to the WPIAL finals. What Spang did know was that junior Javon Trout would have to step up and carry what would be a young team in a difficult section.
“Man, when we started getting ready for the season in the summer, I really wasn't sure who we were going to plug in there,” Spang said. “I look back now and can't be happier with how these guys stepped up and played all year.”
Spang's struggles with the lineup card subsided early on. He added leadership in senior Andy Roshkosh and junior Fisher Bagiatis — whose brother Hunter qualified for the WPIAL individual finals last year. With three of the six spots filled, Spang gave a shot to freshman Zach Suchko.
Trout's spot on the roster was never in question. This season, he shot seven rounds under par and one at even par in his 17 times on the course. Two of his worst rounds came when he battled a week with flu-like symptoms.
“We have really competed exceptionally well, even with losing six seniors from a team that won the section,” Spang said. “We were coming off a really high season and my hopes were kind of ‘ehh.' But this group has really competed and improved and golfed well for us.”
Not only did the Spartans compete, but also surprised everyone individually and as a team. Hempfield knocked off section-leader, Indiana, earlier in the year and the four aforementioned golfers were WPIAL qualifiers.
Trout shot an even-par 72, good for second, at the section qualifier at Valley Green Golf Course on Sept. 17. Bagiatis followed suit with a 77 and Roshkosh and Suchko each shot a 78 to also qualify for the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals on Tuesday at Youghiogheny Country Club.
Spang was delighted to follow his golfers throughout the day and regardless of the outcomes, knew the season went better than planned.
“From where I thought we were gonna be I can't be more happy for the guys who qualified and even the guys who didn't,” he said. “We were able to two years in a row beat Indiana — that's been a phenomenal team — and put some guys on display individually.”
Wednesday at the semifinals, Bagiatis (79), Trout (80) and Roshkosh (80) all advanced by finishing in the top 12. They will compete in the WPIAL Class AAA championship Oct. 2 at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley. Suchko shot an 83 to finish outside of the top 12.
Spang said the season has been a success and was thrilled at how the group came together. He said the example the upperclassmen have set will make filling out next year's lineup card easier.
“The upperclassman couldn't have set a better example and the freshmen really paid attention and golfed well,” he said. “It's just been a great opportunity for those three (upperclassmen) to show them how to play the game and how to have fun.”
Brian Graham is a freelance writer.