By Stacey Swan
In chilly but better than expected weather conditions, the North East boys and girls golf teams made school history as both teams captured District 10 titles in the same year, at The Country Club of Meadville.
On Thursday, the girls team squared off against the reigning D-10 champions from Hickory. It was a close match from start to finish. The experienced Hickory team was led by Junior Makenzie Gustas, who shot an outstanding one under par.
The Hickory team combined to shoot an impressive 233 but it was not enough to overcome the charging Lady Pickers.
Senior Taylor Urban posted her lowest district score with an 85. While sisters Lydia and Anna Swan each went under par with a 70 and 71 respectively for a team total of 226 for the victory.
“I am proud of these girls and what they have accomplished, winning a team district championship has not been done recently for North East girls golf,” said coach Mark Hughes after the match.
The boys team then headed to Meadville the next day hoping to claim a title of their own. The boys team had been rallying late in their season as they had to dig deep just to make it to the district tournament.
They carried that momentum with them to the district match. Five teams were competing for the top spot and a chance to continue into the post season. Joining the Picker boys were Union City, Grove City, Mercer and Corry.
Seniors Isaiah Swan and Carter Hassenplug led the way for the Pickers. Hassenplug shot a solid 76 while Swan posted the tournament’s low round of 69. Adding to the teams score were Ryan Hathaway (88) and Cole Lanahan (94).
The Picker team claimed the victory with a team total of 327, which was 20-strokes lower than the second place Corry Beavers. Coach Troy Hassenplug liked his odds going into the match.
“It came down to experience. And my boys have played under pressure,” commented Hassenplug.
“Although we won the D-10 Championship in 2018, which was an amazing run, this season has had a more satisfying feel to it because these boys had to work hard and earn each win. They never gave up!”
With the team competitions successfully completed for the Pickers, five of the players continued on in quest of the individual district titles on Saturday. Swan and Hassenplug found themselves in familiar territory. These two boys have competed together and against each other for so long that it seemed fitting that they should battle it out yet again for the district title.
Coming into day two, Swan had acquired a 7-stroke lead on Hassenplug.
“I knew I had to keep focused and not post a huge number because Carter is capable of going low,” commented Swan.
Although he had very few pars on the day, Swan shot an even round of 72 for a two-day total of 141, enough to claim the District 10 title.
Despite another solid 2 over 74, Hassenplug was unable to catch Swan and would settle for the silver medal.
On the girls’ side, senior Taylor Urban and the Swan sisters made the cut to play on the final day. With her -2 score from day one of the competition Lydia Swan found herself atop the leader board.
But the field was tight. Right behind her was sister Anna along with Makenzie Gustas (Hickory) and Tara Thomas (Villa Maria) all just one stroke back of the lead. With only 3three spots advancing to the PIAA State tournament it was going to be a battle.
Younger sister Anna managed to keep the match interesting. Despite a rocky start, she recorded three straight birdies on the back nine plus one more for good measure to post another 1 under round for a two-day total of 142.
But Lydia never relinquished the top spot and shot another 2 under for a two- day total of 140 and her third straight District 10 title.
Anna hung on to second while Tara Thomas edged out Gustas for the third-place spot and the opportunity to play at the state tournament later in the month.
“I am glad that their years of hard work and dedication are paying off for them,” coach Hughes commented.” It is extremely fun to watch them play the game of golf. I am blessed to be their coach.”
Both coach Hassenplug and Hughes agreed that what these kids displayed was a dominant performance. Finishing first and second in both the boys and girls individual tournaments coupled with matching team titles was unprecedented and a huge accomplishment.