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Walker, Fuhrer Come From Behind to Win Isaly’s Junior Tour Crowns

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The hardware was laid out Wednesday at the Isaly's Junior Tour Player of the Year Championship. (MATT GAJTKA/PGN)

FOX CHAPEL, Pa. — Entering the season-ending Isaly’s Junior Tour Player of the Year Championship, only one age-group race was decided.

While South Fayette’s Marissa Malosh ran away with the girls’ 11-15 division, capped with a second-place finish Wednesday, the other four trophies came down to 18 holes at the Pittsburgh Field Club.

Two players, Pittsburgh’s Scott Jordan (boys 17-18) and Glenshaw’s Erin Drahnak (girls 16-18), held onto their Player of the Year leads with top-five results, but Connor Walker (boys 15-16) and David Furher II (boys 11-14) each leapt from third entering the event to first with decisive victories.

Walker, a rising sophomore at Central Catholic, beat the select field of 13 by three with a 3-over 74. With the 100 points awarded to the winner, Walker leapt over Zachary Paper and Nolan Shilling in the season standings, as the top two at the start of the day finished in a tie for ninth.

“I got up and down a lot today,” said Walker, who plays out of Wildwood Golf Club in Allison Park. “I wasn’t really hitting a lot of greens, but I made a lot of putts and got up and down more often than not.”

In terms of quality of play, Walker ruled over the 15-16 division all year. Following a fifth-place finish at the season-opening Tri-State PGA Jr. Championship, he won three of the four Isaly’s events he entered, shooting no worse than 76 in any of those.

But, since Walker played in just four tournaments during the season, he trailed Paper and Shilling by 50 and 22 points, respectively. Both of the leaders competed in nine events coming in.

Walker characterized his first summer on the Isaly’s Tour as “pretty good,” but he was pleased with how he rolled the ball on the quick greens at the Field Club. He required just 28 putts to get the job done, despite never playing the full 18 here until Wednesday.

“Today I was more confident stepping up to putts,” Walker said. “Sometimes I line it up and I’ll think it’s not going to go in, but today I had more confidence.”

The route to victory was similar for Fuhrer, albeit in an opposite method. The 14-year-old Fox Chapel Golf Club member played in 12 events this year, tied for the second-most, but he hadn’t earned a win until last week’s event at Green Oaks Country Club in Verona.

Now, he ends the season on a two-match win streak, to go with three runner-up finishes and four other top-fives.

“Probably my irons improved the most (this summer),” he told me. “That helped me a lot, hitting more greens.”

On Wednesday, Fuhrer’s even-par 35 on the back nine — he started on No. 10 — gave him enough breathing room to survive a couple late stumbles and post a 76, edging Ryan Frohlich by one.

The winner’s share of points erased a 27.5-point deficit to previous POY standings leader Wes Lorish of Plum, who tied for third with a 78. The final tally was tight, but it went to Fuhrer, who said he plays the Field Club a few times a year, since multiple relatives belong.

“I live, like, a minute away,” he said. “Really solid course here.”

Similar to Walker, Jordan’s POY crown in boys 17-18 was a story of maximizing opportunities. Although he made a tourney-high three birdies Wednesday, his 4-over 75 was good for a fourth-place tie, his worst result in five events this season.

Jordan won twice this summer and added a pair of second-place finishes, successfully following up last year’s POY title. Despite the lack of events, the Upper St. Clair varsity player led Irwin’s Chase Crissman by 11 points starting the day.

On the girls’ side, Malosh might not have won the season’s final event — that honor went to Cranberry’s Lahini Ranaweera (77) — but her second-place 79 capped a remarkable seven-win year. Her worst result in 11 events was third.

Hermitage’s Alexandra Petrochko shot 80 to clinch second place in the overall girls 11-15 standings. Leading into Wednesday, she didn’t finish lower than second in seven tournaments all summer.

Meanwhile, Drahnak’s fifth-place 87 was 11 behind Wednesday winner Victoria Witouski of Gibsonia, but it came with an asterisk. Drahnak suffered an eye injury recently that she played through against her doctor’s suggestion.

In the end, the Fox Chapel High standout only lost a few points off her 35-point advantage over Mt. Lebanon’s Lindsay Powanda, who didn’t play Wednesday.

Look for a full PGN Feature on the Tri-State PGA Isaly’s Junior Tour next week!

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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