Peters Township's Bruce captures WPIAL Class AAA golf title
All Hunter Bruce hoped for Thursday at the WPIAL Class AAA boys golf championship was to advance. He wasn't thinking about winning.
Not only did the Peters Township sophomore shock himself by shooting a 1-over-par 73 to finish first, he became the school's first golfer to win a WPIAL title.
“It's hard to believe we've never had a winner until (Thursday),” Peters Township coach Dave Kuhn said. “We've had a lot of great golfers come through the program and a couple close misses.”
Peters Township had three golfers in contention for the title at Southpointe Golf Club near Canonsburg. At one point, teammates Alex Stopperich and Tanner Johnson were tied with Bruce for the top spot at 1-over.
But a birdie on No. 16 gave Bruce the lead for good. Johnson and Stopperich ended up bogeying No. 16. Bruce nailed a 25-foot downhill putt and then gave a fist pump after the ball dropped into the cup.
“All I'm looking forward to is next week's team tournament,” Bruce said. “We want to become the first team to win a state title.”
Bruce then was forced to watch from the hill above No. 18 green as Stopperich attempted to tie him with a 10-foot birdie putt. Stopperich just missed it right.
“It's absolutely amazing,” Bruce said about winning. “That wasn't my expectation coming in, I just wanted to qualify. I was hoping all five of us would advance, but four out of five isn't bad.
“Being the first one to win it, wow, I can't believe it. There are so many good golfers who have come through the program. I'm surprised I'm the first one.”
Stopperich ended up second with a 2-over 74, while Johnson and Latrobe freshman Brady Pevarnik tied for third with a 75.
“I had about 10 feet (No. 18), and there was something in the middle of the putt that bothered me,” Stopperich said. “So I aimed for the right edge, hoping it would break left, and it stayed straight. On No. 16, I thought I had it, and it stayed right.”
Franklin Regional freshman Palmer Jackson, Fox Chapel junior Alex Lawson, Trinity senior Nathan Bazant and Moon senior Noah Firmstone tied for fifth at 76.
“I just tried to stay relaxed the entire round,” Pevarnik said. “I didn't have any expectations about winning. I just wanted to qualify. I still have three more years to win a title.”
Peters Township's fourth qualifier was senior Connor Schmidt, who shot 79.
“It doesn't surprise me with what this group is capable of,” Kuhn said. “We're a family. They're all great friends.”
Returning WPIAL champion Anthony Cordaro, a junior at Fox Chapel, was one of the 14 golfers to qualify and advance to the PIAA Western Regional on Oct. 19 at Chestnut Ridge Resort's Tom's Run Golf Course. Cordero shot a 7-over 79 and tied for 11th.
“I never could get anything going,” Cordero said. “I didn't make anything happen, and I didn't play well.”
Six golfers had to play a playoff home for the final two spots. Central Catholic freshman Jim Meyers (birdie) and Fox Chapel senior Matt Friday (par) earned the final two berths. The others to qualify were Central Catholic senior Dan Smith (78) and Penn-Trafford senior Justin Guzik (79).