USC golfer Steve eyes WPIAL Class AAA golf title
Upper St. Clair golf coach Todd Flynn believes senior Thomas Steve was a few strokes away from winning a WPIAL Class AAA championship last season, and he's right.
A few, short strokes.
“I made the comment last year that maybe Thomas' Achilles' heel was putting,” Flynn said. “This year, he fully expects to make everything 15 feet and under.”
And to improve upon last year's third-place finish at Fox Chapel Golf Club — one in which he shot a 2-over-par 72 to finish two strokes behind the leader, Brent Rodgers of Central Catholic.
Steve enters this year's event — scheduled for Wednesday at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley — as one of the favorites because of his offseason work on putting, something similar to Penguins center Sidney Crosby and his desire to get better at faceoffs a few years back.
“I've just practiced and practiced,” Steve said. “I realized that no matter how well you hit the ball, if you don't putt, you're not going to score well.”
When Steve, a Notre Dame recruit for golf, wasn't playing American Junior Golf Association tournaments this summer — he won his first AJGA title at Nemacolin Woodlands with a 3-over 143 in mid-June — he was at his home course, Valley Brook Country Club, refining his putting stroke.
Never a big fan of putting drills, Steve would hit one or two balls from the same spot, evaluate his technique, move, then repeat process.
“I'd try to not hit the same putt more than once,” Steve said, noting that he's not a huge fan of doing organized putting drills. “I like to only hit one or two at a time before moving. When you do more than that, you start just beating putts; it's not beneficial.”
Steve will tee off at 9:20 Wednesday morning in a threesome with Peters Township's Jake Sollon and Josh Bartley of Mars.
If all goes according to plan, Steve will avoid the back-nine 37 from last year that was three strokes off the pace Rodgers set. Rodgers did not qualify for this year's event.
“That was definitely the difference (last year),” Steve said. “I hit it well, but this year I've been making way more putts.”
And turning in some absurd numbers.
In Upper St. Clair's 13 matches Steve is a combined 14-under. His lowest nine-hole score was a 6-under 28 at St. Clair Country Club during match play, his best full round a 3-under 68 at Cedarbrook Golf Course for the WPIAL Class AAA section qualifier.
More than putting, though, Flynn has been impressed with how mature of a golfer Steve has become, whether it's shaping shots, holding back when the situation calls for it or forgetting a bad swing and moving on.
“Thomas very rarely gets himself in trouble,” Flynn said. “He's very smart off the tee. He knows when to leave the driver in the back. He understands that.”
Which figures to be bad news for Baldwin's Zach Taylor, Central Catholic's Nick Cuny and Trinity's Billy McCracken, the three semifinal site winners who comprise the final group.