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In The Arena: WPGA Amateur Field Set, Juniors Double Their Fun

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The editor's bag perched on the first tee at Hill Crest Country Club for the WPGA Amateur qualifier. (MATT GAJTKA/PGN)

LOWER BURRELL, Pa. — Andrew Reynolds, Jimmy Meyers and Michael Marsico tied for medalist honors at Hill Crest Country Club on Thursday, leading a group of 10 golfers who qualified for next month’s 120th Western Pennsylvania Amateur Championship.

Reynolds, of Willowbrook Country Club, claimed medalist honors via the first scorecard tiebreaker, which was lowest back nine. After turning at even par, he knocked in three birdies en route to a 2-under 34 on the inward nine.

Despite an hour-long lightning delay in the middle of the day, eight players in all shot par or better on the tree-lined par-71 layout. With a smaller-than-usual number of Amateur berths available due to COVID-19 restrictions, it took a 72 or better to make the cut to play for the Fownes Trophy at Allegheny Country Club in 10 days’ time.

There was congestion at Thursday’s cut line, with three players — Will Livingston, Alexander McAuley and Shane Kelley — all tying for eighth place at 1-over 72. Livingston and McAuley advanced per the tiebreaker. While those two came home under par, Kelley finished with a 1-over 37 on the back.

Chris Kline, William Smith, Joel Mazur and Jordan Klodowski tied for fourth at 1-under 70, securing their tee times at the Amateur. Kevin Lazzarro will be there, too, on the merit of being the lone competitor out of 61 to shoot level par.

Kelley and Douglas Stadler will serve as alternates, should any players drop out of the Amateur. Stadler was part of a group of four at 2-over 73, but his back-nine 35 won the tiebreak.

(Someone named Matt Gajtka posted nine bogeys, but counterbalanced them with three birdies to come in at 6-over 77, tied for 32nd place. Better luck next year.)

The 10 who qualified at Hill Crest join the eight who advanced out of Monday’s qualifier at the Country Club of Meadville. Medalist Mike Marron (2 under) of Grove City Country Club and Ryan Peters (1 under) were the only ones to break par that day, with Matthew Barto, Shawn Courson, Zachary Ford and Ryan Ferry coming in at level-par 72.

There was no need for a tiebreak at the cutline, as Carter Pitcairn and Patrick Kelly tidily snagged the final two Amateur spots with 1-over results. Jack Wymard and Thomas Leech are the two alternates, in that order.

The 18 qualifiers from this week will join the 36 exempt players to form a reduced 54-player field July 6-7 at Allegheny CC. The defending champion is Connor Schmidt, who raised the Fownes Trophy at storied Oakmont Country Club last Independence Day.

The next WPGA event is Monday, when the 18-hole Stroke Play Championship comes to Westmoreland Country Club.

DOUBLE THE ACES, TUROWSKIS ON JUNIOR TOUR

A three-tourney slate for the Tri-State PGA Isaly’s Junior Tour reached a crescendo Tuesday at Shannopin Country Club in Ben Avon Heights, as Delaney Kern (No. 7) and Adam Steinmetz (No. 2) notched holes-in-one within a couple hours of each other.

Steinmetz parlayed that ace into a T-3 result, as his 6-over 77 was two behind Pittsburgh’s Scott Jordan for the top spot. Kern finished tied for seventh (14-over 86) in the girls 16-18 division, nine strokes behind winner Caroline McConnell of Bridgeville. McConnell also won last week’s Tri-State PGA Junior Championship.

Other champions at Shannopin included Connor McKenzie, who shot 4-over 75 to sprint away with the boys 11-14 division by six strokes. Connor Walker (5-over 76) won the boys 15-16, while South Fayette’s Marissa Malosh and Alexandra Petrochko tied with 11-over 84s in girls 11-15, with Malosh winning the tiebreak.

On Wednesday at Glengarry Golf Links in Latrobe, Walker made it two medalist plaques in as many days, firing a 4-over 74 to win the boys 15-16 by two over Cheswick’s Max Johnson.

However, the Turowski brothers of Harrison City stole some spotlight. Rising Penn-Trafford senior Alex notched the best Isaly’s round of the week, coming in at even-par 70, three better than runner up Matthew Lacek in boys 17-18. Younger brother Nicholas nearly matched Alex, shooting 71 to win by four and claim his second Isaly’s title of the season, and third top-two finish.

On the girls’ side, Tara Loughran of Pittsburgh shot 9-over 79 to best the rest of the field by six; Mt. Pleasant’s Claire Konieczny (18-over 88) won by three in the 11-15 division.

Thursday’s 18-holer at South Hills Country Club had a similar feel, with both Turowskis doubling down with one more title each. Alex (2-over 73) topped Scott Jordan by four, while Nicholas (3-over 74) edged Wes Lorish by one. Venetia’s Kyle McClintock prevailed over a tight 15-16 age group with an 8-over 79, one better than James Cavrak.

Mt. Lebo’s Lindsay Powanda blew away the South Hills girls 16-18, as her 5-over 77 was seven shots better than her nearest competitor. Meanwhile, Malosh and Petrochko finished 1-2 again in the girls 11-15 grouping, but this time Malosh won it outright with a 5-over total.

Two events are on deck next week for the juniors, with Hannastown Golf Club in Greensburg hosting Monday, then Cedarbrook in Belle Vernon gets its turn Wednesday.

A 15-year veteran of sports media, Matt Gajtka (GITE-kah) is the founding editor of PGN. Matt is a lifelong golfer with a passion for all aspects of the sport, from technique to courses to competition. His experience ranges from reporting on Pittsburgh's major-league beats, to broadcasting a variety of sports, to public relations, multimedia production and social media.

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