Name: Lauren Waller
Waller’s week: Waller went into the WPIAL Section 2-AAA golf qualifier as one of the favorites to win, then lived up to those expectations by obliterating the field and shooting a 3-over-par 76 on the course at Rolling Hills Country Club in Peters Township. Waller put the field in the rearview mirror, winning by 13 strokes over second-place Mia Kness of Peters Township.
Waller, who plays on the boys team at Canon-McMillan, has shot in the 40s only once this season over 12 matches and has a handicap of 1.1.
The better path: Waller also played volleyball and basketball before switching to golf in eighth grade. The decision was a pragmatic one.
“I’d played basketball since second grade,” said Waller. “But in eighth grade, I decided to just play on the travel team. I needed to pick one or the other. My parents showed me that I was a better golfer than I was a basketball player.”
They were right.
Waller accepted a full scholarship to play at Penn State, a situation she was not sure she would have had in basketball.
“The coaches were a big part of the decision,” said Waller of head coach Denise St. Pierre and assistant Andrew Breon. “They have a great golf program there and it’s a great atmosphere. I feel it’s a great fit for me.”
Who’s that girl?: Waller came to Canon-McMillan two years ago after leaving Shady Side Academy. Her decision to go out for the boys team was based on a simple fact: no girls team existed at Canon-McMillan.
“At first, it was a little awkward,” said Waller of being on the boys team. “As soon as I got on the team, I was definitely welcomed.”
Waller made varsity by shooting nine-hole rounds of 34, 34, 35 and 36 at the Big Macs home course of Lindenwood. That made her very welcomed by the players and coaches.
“I created a good bond with them and have a lot of good friends on the team,” she said.
Travel time: Waller had a full summer schedule of amateur events, traveling to numerous states. She played the PGA Junior Championship in Washington D.C. at Trump National Golf Course and missed the cut, the American Junior Golf Association Championship in Greenville, S.C., – where she tied for 32nd – and the Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur Championship in Harrisburg, where she won the first flight.
“I got to hear Donald Trump speak in Washington,” she said.
She is hoping those tournaments and numerous hours practicing with her coach Bill Kurp, who is one of the top teaching pros in Western Pennsylvania, pays off in the WPIAL Championships. She took second last season. Another shot at the state tournament in York, where she finished third last year, most likely awaits.
And she won’t be going without her bracelets. Waller wears four of them, two she acquired from different amateur tournaments, one from her freshman year that raised money for cancer and one that simply says, “Pay It Forward.”
“If I don’t have them on,” she said, “then I don’t feel I’ll play well.”
Compiled by Joe Tuscano