Riverside's Fox repeats as WPIAL Class AA golf champion
Skyler Fox changed his irons in the offseason because he wanted heavier shafts.
The Riverside sophomore tested the new metal this season before having his mettle tested in the WPIAL Class AA golf championship.
Fox saw a one-shot lead disappear on the 18th hole but still managed to go back-to-back, holding off Sewickley Academy senior Cole Luther in a playoff to capture his second straight title Thursday in dry and windy conditions at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley.
“It's kind of cool to be a (repeat winner). I was coming in here trying to make it through. If I won, great,” said Fox, who finished second in the PIAA championship last year. “This time came with more pressure. I knew I could do it but knew I had to play my best to do it. It was cool to win as a freshmen, but this one is cooler.”
Fox is the 10th repeat winner, joining the likes of Leechburg's Matt Barto, the only other player to win back-to-back in the smallest classification; Pine-Richland grad Mike Van Sickle; Frank Fuhrer III of Fox Chapel; and a man named Arnold Palmer, the WPIAL's first repeat winner, who won titles out of Latrobe in 1946-47.
“It's pretty special to be listed with all those guys,” Fox said.
Senior Aaron Yorio of Waynesburg was third at 6-over 76, followed by Sewickley Academy senior Will Nocito and South Park senior Josh Neff, who matched 77s.
In the sudden-death playoff, Fox split the fairway on the short, par-4 first hole. He knocked his 89-yard second shot to about 18 feet and two-putted for the win.
Luther, who matched Fox's 4-over 74 in regulation, hooked his drive in sudden death into the left-side trees, hit his second over the green and lofted a soft third to about 10 feet.
The downhill putt, however, lipped out violently and he had to settle for second after Fox tapped in.
“It was a little devastating to see it pop out,” said Luther, a member at Allegheny. “I started walking because I thought I had it.
“It was just fun to be in a playoff; I had never been in a playoff before. I was just trying to enjoy it.”
Standing on the 18th tee, Fox held a one-shot lead. But his second shot flew the green, and he hit a delicate chip that appeared tight but trickled off the front, leading to a bogey.
He recovered in the playoff, showing poise and patience.
“I hit the drive a little on the toe,” Fox said. “But I was in good position. I knew if I made par I would either win or keep the playoff going.”
Riverside coach Bob Nathan said Fox is a grinder: “He plays 54 holes a day in the summer at Olde Stonewall,” he said. “He is so amazingly talented but boy does he work at it.”
Fox made three straight birdies on the front side, on holes 5, 6 and 7. He played in the final group, a twosome behind 13 threesomes, which Nathan felt could have proved detrimental for the fast-playing Fox.
“He hates to wait,” the coach said. “I told him you cannot let this affect you. He has to learn to slow things down if he's going to play college golf down the road. He is getting better at accepting a bad shot and moving on. He was so hard on himself before.”
Fox shot a 2-under 69 in the semifinals. He had a school-record 31 in a nine-hole match.
“It's incredible and he's only a sophomore,” Luther said of Fox. “It was a privilege to play with him.”
The top 16 finishers advanced to the PIAA Western Regional tournament Oct. 16 at Tom's Run Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge Resort in Blairsville.
Four players went to a playoff to determine the final two spots: Burrell junior Tiger Hubbard, senior Clark Miller of Burgettstown, senior Hunter Donahue of McGuffey and St. Joseph senior Derick Petrishen.
Donahue and Petrishen advanced.
Sewickley Academy senior Peter Curran shot 76 but was disqualified for playing the wrong ball on No. 9. WPIAL officials called the USGA at the time about the infraction to get clarification on the rule.