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Sewickley Academy golf returns strong core, ready for title run

| Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, 10:41 a.m.

Good times could morph into fabulous times for the Sewickley Academy boys golf team.

"We have a talented group," coach Win Palmer said. "The guys proved it again in tryouts."

Said tryouts occurred last week at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, W.Va., outside Morgantown. Palmer said that on a difficult par-72 course, his current top six players averaged less than 80.

Those scores are proof that this is, indeed, a quality bunch, one that could challenge for WPIAL and PIAA Class AA championships.

Four of six starters return for a team that went 15-1 and won a seventh consecutive section title a year ago. The Panthers and Burgettstown shared second place in WPIAL Division II, behind Neshannock.

And there are so many capable players enrolled in his school, Palmer said, he is keeping 10 on the roster - the most during his tenure as coach.

"These guys worked hard on their games during the offseason," he said. "They competed in Kings tournaments, played a lot of golf. Every player got better in certain areas. They're ready to go."

Keenan Hickton, a junior, was ready to go last year as well. He was the section medalist and had the low score among Division II (small school) players in the WPIAL individual tournament, which also featured big-school players.

Seniors Jordan Milo and Tim McKinney and sophomore Anthony Muscato are the other starters who are back. Milo was among the 10 lowest Division II scorers in the WPIAL tournament; McKinney, the longest hitter on the team, and Muscato averaged 39 in matches a year ago.

"We have our top four, but the other guys are good," Palmer said. "We probably won't figure out the top six before midseason."

Senior Austin Braksic and junior Bobby Hapanowicz, who were varsity subs last year, will vie for those other starting slots with juniors Sam Duerr and Neal Houston, sophomore Chris Johnson and freshman Scott Brown.

"The thing is," Palmer said, "the four substitute golfers would start on 85 percent of the high school teams in the area."

Sewickley Academy will compete in Section 9-AA with Quaker Valley, Vincentian, Beaver, Rochester, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Cornell.

If they secure another section crown, and the Panthers swept their section matches a year ago, the Panthers will have a more viable shot at postseason glory. There is a Class AA for the first time, which Palmer prefers. No more postseason matches against teams from big schools.

His squad, however, will have to successfully navigate a thorny section. And if it does, Palmer is concerned about Neshannock and Burgettstown.

He has fewer concerns, it seems, about the Panthers.

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