SEWICKLEY – Always stay ready.
That’s the message stressed by Canon-McMillan High School golf coach Justin White after each of his golfers finish the 18th hole and others are still to finish.
With a possibility of a playoff, White doesn’t want a golfer’s mind to wander until the last putt is made and the scorecards are finalized.
Finishing 45 minutes prior to the last golfer arriving on the 18th green Wednesday afternoon, Canon-McMillan senior Taylor Waller patiently waited to see if she would get that second chance.
However, North Allegheny’s Esha Vaidya made a two-foot putt to finish one stroke ahead of Waller for the seventh and final qualifying spot at the WPIAL Class AAA Girls Golf Championship at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley.
Waller, who began the picturesque morning parring her first three holes, was hindered by four double-bogeys to finish with an 11-over 83 to put her alone in eighth place in the 21-player field. She will serve as the alternate in case any of the seven who qualified can’t compete Oct. 16 in the PIAA Class AAA West Region Tournament at Tom’s Run Golf Club in Blairsville.
“I was just trying to hit fairways and then hit greens,” Waller said. “My irons weren’t good today.”
North Allegheny junior Caroline Wrigley, one of two golfers to finish under par, won the Class AAA championship for the second year in a row. Wrigley finished with a 5-under 67 and didn’t bogey a hole throughout her historic day.
Lauren Freyvogel, a junior at Pine-Richland, challenged Wrigley – the two shared the same tee time – most of the day before finishing at 1-under 71.
Wrigley was able to gain separation after making the turn to the back nine, carding her third birdie on the 307-yard, par-4 10th, while Freyvogel bogeyed to fall three strokes behind.
Wrigley became the eighth repeat champion in WPIAL girls golf, the first in Class AAA to repeat since Waller’s sister, Lauren, won back-to-back titles in 2013-14.
“I felt pretty good about my game coming into today and have been hitting it really well,” Wrigley said. “Today, my short game really came together and I made a ton of putts. I felt a little pressure trying to defend the title and it feels really good to accomplish that.”
Waller couldn’t ask for a better start, parring her first three holes. She was the only golfer outside of the top seven to do so.
The 334-yard No.4 hole is where Waller’s troubles began. She hit a ball out of bounds and settled for double bogey. She bogeyed the following hole before dropping another two shots after another double on the par-4 No. 6.
“Everything was going well, at first,” Waller said. “I was hitting greens, putting well. I hit it out of bounds on the fourth hole and it went downhill from there. It gets in your head but I tried not to let it, telling myself there was still a lot of golf left.”
Waller had two more double bogeys – holes No. 10 and No. 12 – before finishing with three pars and playing the waiting game with four groups behind her.
If a playoff was needed, Waller was ready.
“She practices and understands what it takes to be consistent,” White said. “She has a mental toughness and recoups from bad shots faster than most. She plays every shot in the moment and doesn’t think about things going on around her.”
Waller, who played on the boys golf team at Canon-McMillan, will join her sister – a junior at Penn State – next year.
Sewickley Academy junior Tatum McKelvey won the Class AA championship by one stroke with a 9-over 81, edging last year’s winner, Kiaria Porter of Central Valley, by one shot.