LIMERICK >> Whether’s he’s known it or not, Greg Hiriak has had it in him all along.
Playing as Pope John Paul II’s No. 8 player — the matches’ final slot — Hiriak carded a round-best 1-over 35 to lead the Golden Panthers past Owen J. Roberts 183-211 on Thursday afternoon on Landis Creek Golf Club’s back nine.
“We really wanted to come out here and get the win,” said Hiriak, fresh off Tuesday’s even-par finish against Perkiomen Valley. “All of our guys — from the front to the back — knew how important it would be to win this and lock up that third (playoff) spot.”
The result secures PJP (7-2 PAC, 8-2 overall) the No. 3 seed in next week’s Pioneer Athletic Conference Final Four where they’ll likely face-off against three-time defending champion Methacton, the No. 2 seed. Entering the playoffs as the third seed for the first time in program history, PJP secured its second consecutive team postseason appearance. Owen J. Roberts (7-3, 8-3) will be set to face No. 1 seeded Spring-Ford, currently undefeated in PAC play.
Opening the season in PJP’s third slot before running into a serious slump down the stretch, Hiriak admits he’s found his niche as the team’s closer.
“I love it,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t have 13, 14 kids watching me tee-off. There’s no pressure, for me it’s paradise.
“I can come in and be the surprise score. I usually don’t have everyone on the team coming up asking ‘What are you at? What are you shooting?’”
Hiriak finished his round with a pair of bogeys and six pars with a key birdie on No. 15 mixed in.
The junior stuck his 8-iron to within eight feet from 185 out then two-putted for his lone birdie of the day.
“Other than that, pretty straight shooting,” he said. “A couple shots, a couple putts I’d like to have back, but it was a really good day. I’m definitely happy with my score and even happier that we won.”
Mike Limongelli followed right behind Hiriak with a 2-over 36 while JT Spina and Matt Grimm each finished up at 37. David Antoniuk brought it home with a 3-over 38.
Spina, PJP’s No. 1, struck the ball well throughout, hitting seven greens in regulation on his way to two birdies, three bogeys and a double mixed in with three pars. Admittedly, there were a few shots he left out on the course.
“My putting let me down,” said Spina. “I finished with three 3-putts which really hurts. Can’t be too upset shooting 3-over with that many 3-putts, though. I’ll definitely take that score.”
Owen J. Roberts’ No. 1 Ward McHenry was the lone Wildcat to post a sub-40 score. Noah Calle followed with a 6-over 40 while Mark Amadio shot a 41 before Ryan Glenn and Andrew Fisher finished up at 47.
McHenry opened up with a triple bogey on No. 10, then followed it up with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 11. After that, he ran off seven consecutive pars.
“I definitely would have liked to play that first hole better,” said McHenry, who hit seven greens in regulation on the round. “Once I settled down and got things going, it turned out to be a decent round.”
Wise Beyond His Years
Limongelli’s day could have easily taken a turn for the worse on No. 13. He landed comfortably on the green of the 129-yard Par-3, then four-putted following a lip-out to drop a double bogey.
“That was very frustrating,” he recalled.
But he never let it show.
The senior pulled his ball out the cup, took a breath, adjusted his hat, then simply moved on.
“If you have a defeatist attitude, you’re likely not going to play very well,” said Limongelli. “So I knew I needed to regroup and get myself back together after that. You’ve got to be able to forget about a bad shot and move on.”
Limongelli hit the following five greens in regulation and two-putted the rest of the way to par-out his way to the finish.
New Year, Same Faces
For the second consecutive season, the PAC Final Four will feature Spring-Ford, Methacton, Pope John Paul II and Owen J. Roberts. For the first time since the 2012 season, a team not named Methacton (Spring-Ford) will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed.