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Undefeated Downingtown West girls capture second consecutive PAC golf title

East Brandywine – The Downingtown West girls’ golf team, by defeating Downingtown East, 170-183, in the Pioneer Athletic Conference team championship finals Thursday afternoon at Applecross Country Club, completed its season with a perfect 12-0 record.

It was the second consecutive PAC team championship for the D-West girls’ golf squad, which is only in its second year of existence under head coach Mike Ladden. The Whippets have compiled a 24-0 record during that period.

Thursday, the Whippets’ top scorers on the par-35 front nine at Applecross were Grace Hickey (37), Caitlin McGrinder (44), Casey Ruch (44), Shae Cabaddu (45), Lily Byrne (45) and Sarah Fernandes (46).

It was almost a repeat of the 2016 PAC team championship, in which six of the eight girls in Thursday’s D-West lineup placed in the top eight – Hickey, McGrinder, Cabaddu, Byrne, Fernandes and Shannon Halle.

“Our depth has been the key to our success the past two years,” said Ladden. “We have a team in which, at various times, all of the eight girls in our lineup have contributed to the best four scores in each match.”

Nine days ago, three Whippets placed in the top eight at the Pioneer Athletic Conference individual golf championship at Gilbertsville Golf Club – Hickey (third place), Ruch (fifth) and Byrne (tied for eighth).

On Thursday, Hickey, a senior whose home course is Applecross, nearly drove the green on hole No. 1, a wide-open 267-yard dogleg right par 4. She later chipped in for a birdie on No. 8, a 332-yard par 4, with her 58-degree wedge. Her 37 led all scorers Thursday.

“My irons were good today, and my driver wasn’t bad,” said Hickey. “This is a pretty tough course, and you have to know when to play safe, and when to go for it.

“I think the [biggest] reason we’ve been successful the past couple of years is that we’re all pretty close-knit. Caitlin [McGrinder] and I have been friends since freshman year, so it was easy to work with her in helping to start up the [D-West girls’ golf] team two years ago.”

When Hickey and McGrinder were freshmen, they joined the Downingtown West boys’ golf team. It became a co-ed team, and the two girls kept bringing more girls out to join the Whippets co-ed squad. In the fall of 2015, there were close to a dozen girls on the Downingtown West co-ed golf team roster, so last fall the Whippet girls took the plunge and joined the PAC girls’ golf league.

McGrinder, a senior, said, “I think our team has done well because we have great friendships within this team, and we all support one another.”

Cabaddu said, “We’re all of similar mindsets – we’re all really humorous, we like to make jokes.”

A good frame of mind comes in handy at Applecross, a fairly difficult Nicklaus design course that features plenty of hills, deep bunkers and undulating greens. It’s a thinking person’s course.

“You have to play smart here, it’s a difficult course,” said McGrinder, whose home course is Applecross. “My driving really helped me out today.”

Fernandes said, “The key to this course is staying in the fairway, and reading the greens – they’re very hilly.”

An example of the undulating greens and tough pin placements Thursday was on hole No. 3, a 126-yard par 3. The hole was cut on the right side of the green, behind a mound that blocked the view of the cup from the tee, and was located near the bottom of a small hill. Whoever landed on the left side of the green faced a treacherous downhill putt.

Cabaddu said, “The greens were fast today. I hit some good iron shots today, particularly with my 7-iron.”

Ladden, who is also the Director of Golf at Whitford Country Club, said, “You have to putt well to score on this course.”

The second-best score Thursday afternoon at Applecross belonged to Downingtown East’s Liddie McCook, who shot a 39. The talented McCook finished second at the PAC individual tournament Sept. 26, and won the tourney the year before.

“The greens are really tough here,” said McCook, whose home course is Applecross. “I got off to a bit of a slow start today, but I hit a couple of good iron shots late in the round that really helped me out today.”

One of her better shots Thursday was her solid approach to the green on No. 5, a 335-yard dogleg right par 4 that is rated the most difficult hole on the course. The tee shot on No. 5 must carry over thick gorse and land in a narrow area to have a good approach angle to the green.

For Downingtown East, which finished its season with a 9-4 record, the leading scorers Thursday were McCook, Anisha Sonti (46), Emily Johns (47) and Nicole Dutzman (51).

“Our players worked well as a team this year,” said D-East head coach Matt Grinwis. “We had a good season – we didn’t sweat the bad holes, or the bad shots.”

 

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