Spring-Ford slips by Pope John Paul II by a stroke, 194-195

LINFIELD — It was tight from start to finish Thursday afternoon as Spring-Ford narrowly edged host Pope John Paul II 194-195 at beautiful Linfield National Golf Club.

“I knew this was going to be a close match,’ said Spring-Ford head coach Jeff Mast. “I’m just glad we were on the winning side of it. Pope John Paul has a lot of good, young players out there who have been playing well all year.’

The Golden Panthers (3-2) shot well, but it was a match-low 36 from Ben Pochet that led the Rams in the right direction.

Finishing with eight pars and a lone bogey on the eighth hole, Pochet described his performance as solid.

“I left a wedge just short of the green,’ he said of the eighth hole. “Then I chipped it up pretty close but ended up missing the par putt. It was frustrating, but all in all I’m definitely happy about my performance.’

Behind Pochet, Matt Keim (38), Justin Shuler (39), Chase Armour (40) and Connor Boham (41) all turned in a solid performance for the Rams (5-0).

“I was getting off the tee pretty well all day long,’ said Rams’ No. 1 Keim. “My problem seemed to be anytime I had a wedge in my hand. Getting the ball close to the green was killing me throughout the round.’

Pope John Paul II's J.T. Spina tees off on No. 1 against Spring-Ford at Linfield National Golf Course.
Pope John Paul II’s J.T. Spina tees off on No. 1 against Spring-Ford at Linfield National Golf Course.

On the other side, chipping and putting have been the main focus for the Golden Panthers so far this season. According to head coach Tony Romano, the short game was the downfall of PJP, which finished 3-6 last season.

“We’ve been working on our short game for the majority of practice every night,’ said Romano. “We’ve had John Spina (ranked among the Top 15 golf teachers in Pennsylvania 2011-2013 and father of freshman J.T. Spina) helping our kids constantly. It’s been a pleasure to have him helping with our game. Our kids are definitely benefitting from having him with us.’

Joe Morgan shot a team-low 37, followed by 39s from J.T. Spina, Mike Lemongelli and Tom Shaffer while Sam Bush had a 41.

“I started off kind of slow out there,’ said Morgan, who bogeyed the first hole with a three-putt. “But then I birdied No. 2, went on a par streak and then ended up getting another birdie on No. 8. But without that bogey on No. 1, things could have been much different at the end.’

Spina also had a rough start off the first tee, starting out with a triple bogey.

“I needed to get off to a better start on the first hole. Overall, I was just trying to make good swings,’ said Spina, who finished with 15 putts including a 10-footer for birdie on the par-5 No. 2. “I had my short game working for the most part, but there were definitely a couple mis-putts out there where I ended up leaving it short.’

With just two seniors listed on the roster (Morgan and Bush), Romano and the Pope John Paul II team look toward a bright future as a team currently filled with underclassmen.

“I was proud of the way they came out and stepped up,’ said Romano. “Everyone’s scores were the lowest they’ve been all year. They’re all very competitive kids which goes a long way.’

For Spring-Ford, being undefeated up to this point in the season leaves them feeling good. But at this point, the Rams know there is still a lot of work left on the young season.

“As a team, we’re coming along nicely,’ said Mast. “There’s a lot of golf left against a lot of good teams. At this point, our goal has been to just keep improving, and I think we’ve been doing just that so far.’

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