Radnor’s Walker repeats as state champ at Heritage Hills

SPRINGETTSBURY >> Radnor senior Brynn Walker had struggled with her putting through the District One and East Regional portions of the PIAA golf postseason, settling for respective tied for third- and tied for second-place finishes, respectively.

But when it came down to the PIAA Class AAA Tournament at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort, there was  little doubt that Walker, the defending champion, was still the best high school girls golfer in Pennsylvania.

Walker’s length and, probably more importantly, her experience over the quirky 6,223-yard, par-72 Heritage Hills layout were on display Tuesday as she gutted out a 4-over 76 that gave her a 6-over 150 total and a second straight PIAA title.

Walker’s three-shot margin of victory over Maddie Sager, a senior at Owen J. Roberts, may make it look like it was easy, but it’s always a struggle at Heritage Hills and Tuesday was no different.

Radnor senior Brynn Walker launches a tee shot during the recent District One Tournament. Walker carded a 4-over-par 76 at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort Tuesday to win her second straight PIAA Class AAA title with a 6-over 150 total. (Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)
Radnor senior Brynn Walker launches a tee shot during the recent District One Tournament. Walker carded a 4-over-par 76 at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort Tuesday to win her second straight PIAA Class AAA title with a 6-over 150 total. (Times Staff/Rick Kauffman)

When a bad bounce on her tee shot at the par-3 15th hole resulted in a double bogey, Walker was thinking it was getting close. Playing partner Marissa Balish, a senior from Hampton, had crept within two and up ahead, Sager was in contention.

But Walker pulled her driver out of the bag on the 330-yard, par-4 16th and fearlessly lashed the ball onto the green.

“That was probably a little bit of adrenaline there,” Walker said as she basked in the glow of a second state crown. “I was a little upset about the double bogey at 15, so I was like, let’s go for it. I wasn’t exactly sure where I stood, but it I figured, let’s give it a big rip.”

Walker, the reigning Daily Times Player of the Year, was still a good 70 feet from the hole, but she was putting and after a great lag putt, she poured in a three-footer for birdie. She was 5-over for the tournament and in command.

Heritage Hills got one more three-putt out of her on 17 for a bogey and she didn’t quite finish with the flourish she envisioned. She was only 170 yards away from reaching the 456-yard, par-5 finishing hole in two, but she hit a squirrely 4-iron into the right greenside bunker. After blasting out of the bunker, she two-putted for par.

Sager, who got it to 7-over before a bogey-bogey finish, added a second-round 76 to her opening-round 77 for a 9-over 153 total. Balish ended up with a second straight 77 to finish third at 154. Peters Township junior Mia Kness, who held the lead after an opening-round 73, faded to an 82, but still grabbed a share of fourth — and one of the final medal spots — with an 82 that left her at 11-over 155.

She was joined at figure by Walker’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball partner, Madelein Herr of Council Rock North, who rallied after a slow start Tuesday to shoot 77, and Central Valley senior Maddy McDaniel, who added a 78 Tuesday to her opening-round 77.

Radnor junior Gabby Kim, who beat her teammate Walker to claim the East Regional title last week, bounced back from an opening-round 85 with a 2-over 74, the best round of the day among the Class AAA girls by two shots, and finished ninth at 5-over 159.

Walker admitted she slept fitfully Monday night with the prospect of a second state title very much on her mind. Frost in the morning resulted in a one-hour delay and more time to think.

“There was a little bit of pressure,” Walker said. “When you’re the defending champion, you’re expected to win. I was excited, but you should be excited.”

It took her all of two holes to grab the lead from Kness. Walker parred the first while Kness made bogey and Walker couldn’t get a 10-foot eagle putt at the par-5 second to fall, settling for a two-putt birdie.

After a three-putt bogey at the eighth, Walker made her biggest mistake of the day, yanking a hybrid off the tee out of bounds on her way to a double bogey.

“I was just trying to get it in the fairway somewhere and got a little handsy with it and turned it over,” Walker said.
She could have made pars the rest of the way and won pretty easily, but that wasn’t her mindset.

“Any of the golf psychologists you talk to tell you can’t back off in a situation like that, you have to keep pushing,” Walker said.

Walker had joined the pantheon of Delco girls who own state championships, Radnor’s Jackie Calamaro in 2009 and Chichester’s Aurora Kan in 2010, with last year’s title, but she stands alone in the county as a two-time champion.

She also joins the list of girls with multiple big-school state titles that includes three-time champions Katie Miller (1999, 2000, 2002) of Hempfield Area and Cimmie Shahan (1995, 1996 and 1998) of Spring Grove and two-time winners Michelle Michanowicz (1980, 1981) of Fox Chapel, Jodi Figley (1984, 1986) of Hopewell), Lisa Penske (1990, 1992) of Morvian Academy and Erica Herr (2011 and 2012) of Council Rock North.

“I thought about getting a second one not long after I won last year,” Walker said. “I wanted to match Erica (Herr). And when you start getting close to it, you get a little jittery. But you have to stay within yourself.”

• • •

NOTES >> The Class AAA team tournament had been scheduled for Wednesday, but the forecast of heavy rain and wind prompted PIAA officials to push the team competition back to Thursday. Radnor coach Andy Achenbach was still contemplating his five-person roster, although Walker and Michael Sydnes are probably locks and Kim’s 74 Tuesday won’t do anything to hurt her chances of representing the Raiders in the team competition … Holy Ghost Prep senior Steve Cerbara made it a District One sweep of the Class AAA titles as he defeated Great Valley senior Geoff Rice on the first hole of a playoff after they finished tied at 5-over 147 after 36 holes. Kennett junior Evan Brown finished fourth at 7-over 149 … The Class AA titles went to Wyomissing junior Nate Menon with a 4-over 146 total and Greensburg Central Catholic junior Olivia Zambruno with a 9-over 153 total.

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