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Downingtown West beats defending champ Hatboro-Horsham for PAC girls’ golf team title

MARLBOROUGH >> The Downingtown West girls’ golf team, in its first year in the Pioneer Athletic Conference, captured the Pioneer Athletic Conference team title Thursday with a 178-190 win over two-time defending champion Hatboro-Horsham in the championship match at Macoby Run Golf Course.

Hatboro Horsham had the afternoon’s best scorer, senior Cassidy Gavaghan, with a two-over-par on the front nine at Macoby Run, but six of the next seven best scores were shot by Whippets — Lily Byrne (43), Caitlin McGrinder (43), Grace Hickey (44), Sarah Fernandes (48), Shannon Halle (49) and Shae Cabaddu (51). Only the top four scores were needed for Downingtown West’s team total, but the six scores were a testament to the Whippets’ depth of talent.

McGrinder, a junior, said, “When Grace [Hickey] and I were freshmen, we joined the Downingtown West [boys] team. It became a co-ed team, and we kept bringing other girls out.”

Last fall, there were close to a dozen girls on the Downingtown co-ed golf team roster, so this year the Whippet girls decided to take the plunge and join the PAC girls’ golf loop. Downingtown West went undefeated (8-0) in the PAC this fall, and entered the PAC team tournament as the No. 1 seed (Hatboro-Horsham was No. 2).

Neither team in the championship final had played Macoby Run, a one-time farm that was converted to a golf course 25 years ago. The course features some dramatic elevation elevation changes (particularly at hole Nos. 3, 4 and 9) and some blind shots (particularly from the No. 6 red tees). Understandably, the victorious Whippets found the challenging course more to their liking after Thursday’s round than did the runner-up Hatters.

“I really liked the course — it’s pretty and wide-open,” said Byrne. “The greens are tough, and the breaks on them are hard.”

The highlight of Byrne’s round was a near-birdie on the sharply downhill par 3 No. 4 hole, which measures 110 yards from the red tees. Byrne hit a pitching wedge with a half-swing, and got the ball to within about 15 feet of the hole, then barely missed her birdie putt.

“There are some tricky holes here, some up-and-down holes [in elevation] and tricky greens,” said Hickey, who narrowly missed a birdie on No. 6, a 345-yard par 5, when she hit driver, 5-iron and and sand wedge to nine feet, just missing the putt.

“It’s a very interesting course,” said McGrinder, who acknowledged, along with her teammates, that Macoby Run included some blind shots.

McGrinder struck the ball well enough to have makeable birdie putts on three holes — on No. 4, she hit a 60-degree wedge to eight feet; at No. 7 (a 268-yard par 4) she hit driver and a 60-degree wedge to nine feet; and on No. 8 (a 285-yard par 4) she hit driver and 9-iron to 12 feet.

Fernandes, who shot a 48 to complete the scoring for Downingtown West, said, “I thought the course was really pretty. It’s easy to adjust to — even though none of us have played it before, after a couple of holes you get the feel of it.”

Downingtown West defeated Hatboro-Horsham, 185-212, in a regular-season match Sept. 7.

Thursday, Hatboro-Horsham was led by Gavaghan, who just missed a birdie on No. 3, which is rated the toughest hole on the course. It’s a 386-yard (from the red tees) par 5 that has a creek running across the fairway about 200 yards from the tee. At the creek bed, trees pinch both sides of the fairway. Beyond the creek, the fairway rises abruptly to a green that slopes from back to front.

Gavaghan navigated the tough third hole with a 5-wood off the tee, then a 6-iron, then a sand wedge to 12 feet. She just missed her birdie putt. On the ninth hole, a downhill 184-yard par 3, she hit a 6-iron to about 10 feet, but missed the birdie putt.

“I thought I hit the ball well today,” said Gavaghan, who finished second in the PAC individual championship Sept. 27 with a 73 at Gilbertsville. “But my putting hasn’t been that great the last few weeks.”

Rounding out the scoring for Hatboro-Horsham Thursday afternoon was Hailey Phillips (46), Cameron Fisher (52), Annie Griffith (54) and Sheila Fisher (54). Only one of the 54s counted toward the Hatboro-Horsham total.

Downingtown West coach Mike Ladden, the Director of Golf at Whitford Country Club, said, “Last year, our girls weren’t quite ready to join the PAC. But over the past summer they put in a lot of hard work, and coming over to the PAC was the right move for this year.”

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