Young Plum golfers hope to make waves in Section 4 matches
Youth will be at the tee for the Plum varsity boys golf team this season, as numerous underclassmen again are in the mix.
The team opened practice on Aug. 13 with a tryout round at Willowbrook Country Club, the team's home course. The golfers then gathered for the second day of tryouts on Aug. 15 at 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills on Wednesday.
They got back on the Willowbrook course on Friday and played a round in advance of Tuesday's scheduled opener against Fox Chapel at Willowbrook. Results were unavailable at deadline.
"Tryouts were a little difficult because of the course conditions," head coach Keith Nonnneberg said.
"Willowbrook is our home course, and this is where we practice. They've had some problems with the greens. They decided to airify the entire golf course. I don't know if they determined what it was, but they were starting to lose a couple of their greens, and they tried to get air down into the roots."
Nonnenberg said the final varsity lineup still was not finalized earlier this week but that sophomores Andrew Reynolds and Justin Sovak paced those golfing last week with strong tryout rounds.
Reynolds and Sovak were fourth and fifth, respectively, in average for nine-hole matches last season. Graduates Greg Varga and Brett Rubash were the top two in average, followed by Tanner Yocca, a senior this season.
Nonnenberg said he has been impressed with the early-season performances of freshman Samantha Shumacher, the only girl on the 12-player squad.
"Samantha is a nice surprise," Nonnenberg said. "A 14-year-old girl shot 84 from the men's tees. That's playing. She has played in a lot of tournament golf and has taken lessons from professionals since she was young. She fits in very well."
The other freshman on the team, Alex Pease, is trying to make his mark this season after playing in several tournaments this summer on courses from Pittsburgh to Altoona on the Northeast Junior Golf Tour.
Nonnenberg said sophomore Roger Gestner, a transfer from Boca Raton, Fla., was strong in last week's tryouts.
"We (started) with Fox Chapel, so that is always a tall task," Nonnenberg said. "(Our) lineup is pretty young. I expect a lot of improvement throughout the season."
Others who competed for spots in the varsity lineup included juniors J.P. Predmore and Alex Tishko; and sophomores Tim McMullen, Richie Rossi, Max Flowers and Tyler Arnold.
Plum is looking to improve on last season's 3-9 overall record in Section 4. In the offseason, the WPIAL organized the 118 boys golf teams into Class AAA and AA sections for the first time.
"It's good because it gives smaller schools a chance to compete against other small schools," Nonnenberg said.
The section changed when Pittsburgh Central Catholic, one of the two playoff qualifiers from the section in 2011, moved out, and Kiski Area moved in.
"We lose Central Catholic, and that may benefit us because they are so strong," Nonnenberg said. "Kiski is a lot like us. They have their good years and bad years. To be honest, I don't know what kind of season they could have. But I look forward to the team facing Kiski every year."