Hempfield golf team starts strong with runner-up tourney finish
The eagle landed very hard on the Hempfield golf team.
The Spartans were competing in the Central Dauphin High School Shootout last Thursday, and competing well. Facing a quality field from across the state, they were on the verge of a championship at the final hole.
Then a player from Scranton Prep sank a 40-foot eagle putt that sank the Spartans by a stroke. For Hempfield, it was a bitter cup into which the ball dropped. But, a few miles from Harrisburg, that runner-up finish was a capital experience.
“I think we're doing great,” coach Bryan Spang said a few days after the tournament at Blueridge Country Club. “We have four guys playing outstanding golf — five including Janista.”
Janista Numpho-Frank is not a guy but a girl, a senior who initially tried out because Hempfield does not have a girls team, then continued to prove she is one of the best golfers in the school. But by late September, she and her male teammates may have something great in common: a Section 1-AAA championship.
“We have a good shot at winning the section, although it is a tough section,” said Spang, whose squad finished third last year, missing the playoffs. “Latrobe is good, Indiana is the defending champion. We also have Penn-Trafford, Norwin, Derry and Greensburg Salem.”
That may be a formidable lineup, but Hempfield has players who can handle it. The top three are seniors with experience and ability: Hunter Bagiatis, Arnie Cutrell Jr. and Numpho-Frank.
Cutrell, whose father, Arnold, is one of the area's top professional players, is the Spartans' No. 2 man. But he was No. 1 at Blueridge, shooting 1-under-par 71 to win by two shots.
Spang carries eight players and said the other five “are close to one another.” For now, he said, sophomores Javon Trout and Fisher Bagiatis are Nos. 4 and 5, and junior Andy Roshkosh is sixth.
Trout had an excellent summer playing in the local Kings Restaurants Tri-State PGA Junior Golf Tour.
The Spartans' coach considers his seventh and eighth guys to be the junior varsity. Junior Brandon Gernhardt and senior Anthony Santoro are in those positions for now, but Santoro did something at the team tryouts last week that showed just how similar in ability many of these players are.
He had a hole-in-one at No. 11 at Valley Green, about 140 yards.
“We all watched it,” Spang said. “He gave me a fist pump, then kept walking like he'd done it before — even though he hadn't.”
Hempfield opened section play Monday against Derry and was scheduled to face Hollidaysburg on Wednesday. Its second section match will be Friday against Norwin at Irwin Country Club.
“I know we're going to be in the mix again,” Spang said.
Rick Shrum is a freelance writer.