Mars golfers Bartley, Merten soak up PIAA experience

| Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 8:47 p.m.

Josh Bartley and Bridget Merten found intense competition and a challenging course at the PIAA golf championships.

The two Mars Area standouts discovered some inspiration as well.

Bartley finished 12th out of 36 golfers in the Class AAA boys field, and Merten tied for ninth among 18 Class AAA girls golfers.

They both had a great experience at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort and Conference Center in York over the two-day event on Oct. 21 and 22.

All golfers got to participate in at least one practice round on Oct. 20, which turned the event into a three-day outing.

“It was very cool,” Bartley said. “I felt like I was out on tour or something.”

Added Merten: “It was very exciting and a ton of fun. I hope to go to states the next two years as well. I think it'd be great to do something like this all the time. This would definitely be work I'd love to do. Doing something you love every day would be amazing. So, it makes me want to work harder to get better to give myself a chance at that.”

Bartley, a senior, became the Planets' first male to qualify for the PIAA championship event. He shot an 81 on the first day, but rallied to card a 74 on the second day.

“I definitely did not think I was going to get 12th place,” he said.

“I was content with just being there. Getting to states was my goal. Placing that high was that much better.”

He fell one stroke short of earning a medal awarded to the top 10 golfers.

“I played pretty awful the first day. I pulled it together the second day, though,” he said.

“I got pretty nervous, and I let it all go to my head. It snowballs from there.”

His 74 was the second-best score of all the golfers on the second day.

“I should have had the best score,” he said. “Going into the last hole, I was 1-over. I put a shot in the water and double-bogeyed and that was my only double-bogey of the two days. I missed a medal by one stroke because of that stupid double-bogey on the last hole. That hurt, needless to say.”

Merten, a sophomore, is the school's first female to reach the state championship since sisters Marisa and Lauren Glew in 2006. Merten carded an 83 both days to finish with a 166, which tied her with Council Rock North's Madeline Herr.

Only the top five girls in that classification earned medals.

“I wanted to be in the top 10, so I was pretty content with what I got,” she said. “I guess you could say it was a little intense, trying to exceed my expectations and meet those of others.”

Overall, Merten had the second-best score among golfers from the western half of the state. Only Canon-McMillan's Lauren Waller (151) finished higher.

“That was nice being one of the tops in the west. It definitely gave me a little more of a confidence boost,” Merten said.

“These girls I normally play with maybe didn't have their best days, but that doesn't mean they won't work hard to get better next year. I can be beat, but I don't want to be beat, so I have to practice harder than everybody else.”

Bartley and Merten agreed that the course was challenging.

“It was probably the hardest course I have ever played. I really liked it, though,” Bartley said.

“The greens were faster than anything I have really seen. If you putted it up a hill, it'd roll back at you and go further. I could just tell right off the bat the course was going to be difficult with how the holes were set up and how quick the greens were.”

Merten went to York a day early to get an additional practice round in on the course.

“It was a pretty tough course. The rough was really high and the greens were really fast. It was all about ball placement,” she said. “When I got there, I immediately thought that when I ended up in the rough I couldn't get it out, at first. I was thinking it'd be pretty difficult. Then, I got to the greens and they were pretty intimidating. On Sunday, it was better and I was kind of getting used to the greens. I feel I did a lot better once I got through the day.”

Merten hopes to build off the experience for next season.

“I think it'll definitely give me more confidence because I know what I am getting into. I wasn't sure what to expect this year,” she said.

“I think next year both regionals and states are at the same courses, I think I will be able to do better next year than this year.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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