A year ago at this time, South Park senior golfer Joey Toth was just trying to improve.
After conducting an impressive crescendo to his 2020 season, you could say it’s Mission: Accomplished.
Capping his final year of high school golf with a third-place finish at the PIAA individual state Class AA championships last month, Toth completed his journey from an 18 handicap in the spring to consistently breaking 40 in nine-hole matches and leading the Eagles in nearly every event.
While South Park didn’t qualify for the team championships, Toth brought a great deal of pride to his school with his 3-over 74 at Heritage Hills Resort in York, Pa. Not to mention the considerable confidence he earned for himself.
“Yes, I did meet my goals this season, by a long shot,” Toth told me last week via email. “My goal this year were to qualify for the WPIAL finals, but I did not think I’d qualify for the state championship, let alone get third.”
Toth did more than qualify for individual WPIALs, of course. His sixth-place finish (9-over 79) at storied Allegheny Country Club in early October pushed him comfortably into the state finals, which took 12 players from the WPIAL.
Throughout the course of the fall golf season, Toth consistently paced South Park in nine-hole matches, so his performance at the culmination of 2020 wasn’t a tremendous shock, but to shoot as well as he did under postseason pressure was no small feat, either.
He truly saved his best for last at Heritage Hills, tying Sewickley Academy’s Tim Fitzgerald — the medalist at WPIALs — for the top finish among Pittsburgh-area players at the Class AA individual championship.
— SPEAGLESGOLF (@speaglesgolf) October 19, 2020
“I think my ability to stay focused throughout the entire round really helped score well,” said Toth, who is undecided on his college choice. “It also helped that never really got nervous on the first tee. I would sing songs in my head during my round to take my mind off of swing thoughts.”
So that was Toth’s key to performing his best, but how did he make that remarkable jump in aptitude over the spring and summer? He said it was mostly about improving his wedge game.
“Learning how to control distance from 100 yards and in was a huge improvement in my game,” he said. “This allowed me to have many shorter putts, rather than having a lag putt every hole.”
While Toth aims to compete at the college level, he’ll look back fondly at his experience on the links for South Park — and not just because he became the Eagles’ No. 1 by his senior season.
“My favorite part about high school golf,” Toth said, “was competing with other schools, while having fun with your friends.
“There is nothing better than that.”
Tim Fitzgerald, Sewickley Academy – T3rd (74)
Kai Carlson, Northgate – T10th (77)
Joey Mucci, Sewickley Academy – T10th (77)