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W.C. East’s Kim, Unionville boys prevail at District 1 championships

LIMERICK >> Chester County emerged with two champions at the PIAA District 1 Golf Championships at Turtle Creek Golf Club Tuesday — a red-hot freshman from West Chester East, and an undefeated defending state champion squad from Unionville.

West Chester East freshman Victoria Kim followed up her Ches-Mont girls’ golf championship a week ago with a three-stroke victory Tuesday in the Girls AAA division; while defending PIAA Class AAA state champion Unionville won the Class AAA boys team title once again.

To view a photo gallery of local golfers in action at the PIAA District 1 Championships  click here

Kim fired a three-under-par 68 Monday at Gilbertsville to take a two-stroke lead into the final round, then persevered with a 75 at Turtle Creek Tuesday, increasing her margin of victory to three strokes. Unionville sophomore Charlotte Scully and Pennsbury’s Jade Gu finished tied for second at 146.

Kim ran into some early trouble Tuesday, taking bogies on holes 2, 3 and 8, then a double-bogey at the par 3 ninth hole to finish the front nine with a 40. She settled down on the back nine, birdieing Nos. 12 and 15.

“I didn’t necessarily play the best I could have played today, but it turned out OK,” said Kim, who plays on the Philly Junior Tour as well as nationally on the AJGA Tour, “My play picked up on the back nine. My drives were OK, and my putts were just barely making it. They put the pin positions in difficult spots today, but they were playable.”

Scully, who placed sixth at Districts last year, followed her 70 Monday with a 76 Tuesday to finish three strokes behind Kim.

“My shots were accurate today, I just wasn’t [lag] putting as well as I had hoped,” said Scully.

With fairways still wet and patchy in spots following recent heavy rains, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their balls within one club length if the ball finished in the fairway.

As expected, defending PIAA AAA state champion Unionville captured the District 1 AAA boys’ team championship once again Tuesday, with Holy Ghost Prep in second place, four strokes behind the Indians’ winning total of 3-over-par 291. West Chester East and Conestoga tied for sixth in the boys’ team competiton, at 307. The Indians’ winning team lineup included Connor Bennink, Will Bennink, Chris Skean, Richie Kline and David Starnes.

On an individual level, Unionville had four golfers qualify for Regionals – Connor Bennink (77-69-146, tied for 10th), Richie Kline (73-73-146, tied for 10th), Will Bennink (73-75-148, tied for 13th) and Jack Cooley (73-75-148, tied for 13th).

Unionville boys coach Jimmy O’Rourke said, “The last two years, our team has just been off the charts. Every team can have maybe 1, 2 or even 3 kids who can go low, but to win this [Districts] or especially the team title, you need to have depth. We were never having to count someone who was eight over par. We have kids who can win the overall [individual title], but when that doesn’t happen, we can kind of put our hats on the shelf for winning the team title, which is awesome.”

Connor Bennink, who fired a three-under-par 69 Tuesday, said, “My iron play was my strength today – yesterday I drove it a little better, but today my approach shots were giving me birdie chances and keeping me out of trouble. The course was in good shape, considering how much rain they’ve gotten. With the lift. clean and place [rule] in the fairways, it took away some of the mudballs and plugged lies you got in the fairway.

“I like this course – I think it’s a good, fair test. A lot of the trouble is on the left side, which is good for me because a lot of my misses are off to the right, so it kind of set up well for me.”

The Class AAA boys individual champion was Patrick Sheehan of Central Bucks East, who shot 72-67-139 to tie Luca Jezzeny of Central Bucks West and Liam Hart of Holy Ghost Prep for first place, then won on the first playoff hole. Norristown’s Josh Ryan placed fourth, four strokes back, with a 73-70-143, then came Radnor’s David Colleran (70-74-144) and Harriton’s David Fitzgerald (73-71-144) in a tie for fifth.

“I thought the conditions out there weren’t too tough, the wind wasn’t too bad, and the pin positions weren’t too tough for the most part – there were a couple of tough placements, but overall I thought scoring conditions were pretty good today,” said Colleran. “I feel I didn’t play too bad today, but I wasn’t happy with the way I scored – I made a couple of bad swings on No. 6 [the No. 1 handicap hole] and No. 8] where I put the ball out of bounds and that kind of killed my round. I made it through to Regionals, which was my main goal.”

One stroke behind Colleran was Conestoga’s Morgan Lofland (75-70-145), Spring-Ford’s Luke Watson (73-72-145) and Council Rock South’s Matt Fleming (69-76-145).

Lofland, who tied for 23rd at States last year, rallied to shoot a 3-under-par 33 on the back nine (including three birdies) Tuesday.

“On the front nine it was a little brutal – I wasn’t comfortable with my position, knowing that my iron shots weren’t going close to the hole and I wasn’t giving myself a shot at birdie,” said Lofland. “But I picked myself up on the back nine and got a couple of wedge shots close.”

One stroke behind Unionville’s Connor Bennink and Richie Kline was Norristown’s Caleb Ryan (74-73-147). Tied for 13th with the Unionville duo of Will Bennink and Jack Cooley was Souderton’s Stephen Butler (74-74-148). Two players tied for 16th – Owen J. Roberts’ Ryan Glenn and Harriton’s Andrew Wallace, and the final qualifying spot for Class AAA Boys Regional went to Spring-Ford’s Axel Kalbach.

Harriton will have two juniors, David Fitzgerald and Andrew Wallace, advancing to Regionals. Fitzgerald was red-hot early Tuesday, getting five birdies on the front nine.
“David came out of the gate like an animal – it was ‘Jurassic Park’ out there,” said Harriton coach Brian Dobak. “Since this is a two-round tournament, you can’t fluke your way into the East Regional. You have to earn your stripes in our district, and David and Andrew did.”
Wallace’s driver shaft snapped during his second round Tuesday, and he had to play the last five holes without use of a driver.
“I knew it wouldn’t affect Andrew – he’s mentally strong, I knew he would gut it out” said Dobak. “That’s what college coaches look for – when the chips are down, how do you respond and recover. Thats where Andrew separates himself from a lot of young golfers.”

Nine girls in the AAA division qualified for individual Regionals. Downingtown East’s Liddie McCook shot a one-under-par 71 Tuesday to tie for fourth place, along with Haverford’s Riley Quartermain at 147.

McCook, who finished second at Districts and States last year, said, “I feel like my approach shots were really good today, my wedges were solid, I was sticking it on a lot of greens, getting it close. I like this course – I played a practice round here a couple of weeks ago, and I like the fact that it’s a little longer, so I can hit it a little further, use my distance. It gives a little bit of a challenge. I had a bit of a rough round yesterday – putts weren’t falling for me. I lacked confidence on the greens yesterday, but I came back today [with more confidence].”

Quartermain had a topsy-turvy round Tuesday that included four birdies, four bogies and a double bogey.

“I putted really well today, I made a couple of crazy one-putts,” said Quartermain.”

Yao, the defending District 1 champion, shot a 71 Monday but skied to an 80 Tuesday to finish sixth.

“I hit a couple of good drives today, but I wish I would have putted better,” said Yao. “I wanted to go low today, but sometimes [these high rounds] just happen.”

Central Buck East’s Sarah Scarpill (156) finished seventh, and two Mount St. Joseph golfers, Olivia Wirsching and Clare Gimpel, tied for eighth.

In the girls’ AAA team competition, Mount St. Joseph finished first with a 236 (23 over par), and Downingtown East finished second, one stroke back at 237 (with Liddie McCook, Ava O’Sullivan, Anisha Sonti, Katelyn Samples and Ava Lichok). Gwynedd Mercy was third (252), Unionville fourth (259, with Charlotte Scully, Morgan Santaguida, Molly Evanko, Claire Lu and Meghan Reilly), Downingtown West fifth (269, with Lily Byrne, Rosie Byrne, Abby Bain, Maddie Perkins and Rachel Schneberger) and Central Bucks East sixth (287).

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