Valley's Clark advances to PIAA golf qualifier
Bill Clark went from nervous to refocused in a matter of minutes.
The Valley senior overcame a bulky putter to shoot 7-over-par 77 in his first WPIAL Class AAA championship appearance Wednesday at Fox Chapel Golf Club. But he had to wait for several groups to finish to see whether he made the top 14 to advance in the individual postseason.
Disappointment abated, he tied for 12th to move on to the PIAA Western Regional qualifier Oct. 15 at Toms's Run Golf Course in Blairsville. There, he'll have a chance to make his first state tournament.
“What a relief,” Clark said. “The whole time, it was nerve-wracking. My putting was bad today. I just didn't feel comfortable. I changed my putting stance and grip like four times during the round.”
Clark added to what has been his best scholastic season. He finished second at the Westmoreland County Coaches Association Tournament (77) and tied for the low score at the Section 8-AAA event (74).
“I was pretty solid from tee to green today,” he said. “I just couldn't get a feel for the greens.”
Two other local players also made their WPIAL final debuts. Plum sophomore Andrew Reynolds shot 82, and Knoch senior Stefan Carlsson had 85. The cut for the 14th spot fell at 77, with a playoff for the alternate spot at 78.
Long-hitting Central Catholic junior Brent Rodgers won the title at even-par 70. The Cranberry resident made four birdies on the same course that hosted the Champions Tour's Senior Players Championship this summer. The 36-player WPIAL field played from the white tees, but that only enticed Rodgers to rear back even more.
“This course is too short for him,” said Indiana junior Matt Holuta, who finished second at 1-over 71.
Rodgers was hitting wedges and short irons into holes on a wet course where other players needed mid-irons and hybrids to reach.
“I hit it pretty well today,” he said. “The course played fair.”
Reynolds played in Rodgers' threesome.
“He was hitting 75 yards past me,” Reynolds said. “He's the longest player I have seen.”
Upper St. Clair junior Thomas Steve took third at 72, Latrobe teammates Will Wears and Chad Kissell matched 74s and four players tied for sixth at 75, including the returning PIAA runner-up, Tom Nettles of Peters Township.
Wears was 2-under through seven but shot 40 on the back nine. Holuta, who had five birdies, had two holes to play when he found out what Rodgers shot. He made par on 17 and 18.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-224-2696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.