West Shamokin's Rocco readies for PIAA golf qualifier
For more than a week, West Shamokin senior Anthony Rocco has waited and wondered if he'll tee it up in the PIAA Class AA Western Region qualifier Monday at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville.
By mid-morning, he'll know his fate.
Rocco advanced to Monday's PIAA qualifier as an alternate after he placed 17th in the WPIAL individual championship Sept. 24. The continuation of his individual postseason for at least 18 more holes hinges on the absence of another golfer.
The senior hopes he and coach Tom McClaine won't have to turn around shortly after completing the 38-mile drive to Blairsville.
“I'm kind of excited, but I want to know already if I'm going to play or not,” Rocco said Friday afternoon. “This is a little different because there's no pressure.”
Doses of drama and pressure existed in Rocco's last two individual outings.
At the Section 1-AA tournament, he and Apollo-Ridge Adam Lockwood tied for the fifth with 82s. One more stroke, and Rocco would've missed the cut for the WPIAL finals.
At Youghiogheny Country Club, Rocco and two other golfers — Neshannock's Mike Maciarello and St. Joseph's David Schnur — tied for 17th place with 84s, so the trio went into a playoff for the WPIAL's alternate spot.
Schnur lost to Maciarello and Rocco on the first hole. The latter two then went head to head for three consecutive holes before Rocco prevailed.
Rocco's reward for twice staying just above the cut? He earned a practice round at Tom's Run, one of two courses at the Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort.
The senior and his coach played the course Wednesday. Wet conditions failed to dampen Rocco's appreciation for 6,812-yard, par-72 Tom's Run and its amenities.
“It's a beautiful place — one of the nicest I've ever been to,” said Rocco, who noted the novelty of the car-to-cart bag pick-up service at clubhouse. “The clubhouse is just ridiculous. There's this big marble fountain right in entrance. It's well done.”
Rocco also embraced the layout. With long holes and relatively open fairways, the course is favorable to Rocco's aggressive, go-big approach.
“It's going to be important to put your tee shot in play,” McClaine said. “But once you do that, there are some holes that you can score on.”
That is, if Rocco gets the chance to play. McClaine said he and Rocco heard at the WPIAL finals that, for whatever reason, the alternate usually enters the field, which includes 42 golfers deep this season.
“I've tried to tell him to prepare as if he's going to play, so that he'll be ready if he's needed,” McClaine said.
The top 20 finishers in the Western Region qualifier advance to the PIAA championship, which is Oct. 22-23 at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York.
“If I play, I'm obviously going to go out and try to play well, but I might try to take a few more chances just in case I end up making (the cut),” Rocco said.
He knows he has nothing to lose if he gets a spot. And even if no openings appear, the senior still might find a way to capitalize on the trip.
“I think he'll try to talk me into playing a practice round at Chestnut Ridge (Golf Course) next door before we head home,” McClaine said.
Bill West is a staff writer at Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303.