Seton-La Salle golfer Walz ends up second at state event
Every fall Friday night, junior Joey Walz can be found on the sideline at a Seton-La Salle football game. As a member of the varsity cheerleading squad, Walz never misses her Rebels play.
But last week, in a reversal of roles, it was Walz inducing the cheers during the PIAA Class AA girls' golf championships at Heritage Hills Golf Course.
Walz brought back a silver medal for the best finish ever by a Seton-La Salle golfer.
“It feels good to know I will be remembered,” she said. “I know in the past there were good golfers that went to Seton.”
Walz is wildly athletic. Before this year, she was a member of the lacrosse, basketball, golf and cheerleading teams, but decided to cut back heading in to this year to concentrate on her golf game.
Coming off a seventh-place finish at states her freshman year, Walz missed the cut by one stroke last year while battling an illness. The missed opportunity served as fuel for her run this season.
“The focus of the year, especially for her, was ‘Let's play consistent and let's play smart,'” Tim Zugates, Seton-La Salle's head coach, said, “and let's get back to the state championships.”
Throughout the season, Walz faced a familiar foe in Central Valley's Mackey Fouse. Walz and Fouse, who is a senior, have been competing against each other since childhood, and this year battled at the WPIAL tournament and regional event prior to the PIAA championships.
“I've been playing with Mackey since I was really young in local tournaments, so she's become a friend of mine,” Walz said.
Walz finished Day 1 with a 78 score, three strokes behind leader Fouse.
Zugates credits Walz's improved chipping and green game for the fast start.
“Everything was very steady. She was off the tee solid,” Zugates said. “She's improved her short game and putting over the last 18 months.”
Heading in to the final day, Zugates believed what Walz was doing would be enough to contend for the top spot without taking too many chances.
“We talked the night before, and we talked in the morning.” Zugates said.
“The plan was, ‘Let's play steady, hard golf. Don't take any chances through the first nine and at that point we'll see where we stand, hoping someone would make a mistake and drop a stroke here and there and put us in the chase a little tighter.'”
Out of the gate, Walz quickly fell six strokes behind, four-putting the first hole and bogeying the second hole. She admitted being frustrated, but knew she needed to keep her composure on the back nine.
“I tried to blow it off,” Walz said of her slow start. “It's hard to do whenever you're on the course. I figured if I thought of the next nine as a new start, it would be a lot easier for me to start doing better.”
After shooting a 45 through the first nine holes, Walz reset mentally and shot a 37 the rest of the way for a score of 82, and a two-day total of 160.
The second-place finish is only the beginning as Walz looks to get back to the PIAA finals next year and mimic her friend Fouse's performance.
“I'm going to try to do what she did and win everything,” Walz said. “Even if I don't win WPIALs or qualifiers, my biggest goal is just to win states next year.”
That message is clear: States or bust.
“I think we won't be happy if we don't win it all next year,” Zugates said. “She's poised and ready.”
Justin Criado is a freelance writer.