C-M’s Waller is regional champ, leads 7 to state golf final
Canon-McMillan junior Lauren Waller qualified for the state finals by winning the PIAA Class AAA West Region Tournament Wednesday.
Eleanor Bailey / The Almanac
BLAIRSVILLE – Just think how strong a performance Lauren Waller would have had in the PIAA Class AAA West Region Golf Tournament Wednesday if she had brought her “A” game.
Waller, a junior from Canon-McMillan, maneuvered over the rain-soaked terrain of Tom’s Run Golf Course in Blairsville knowing she left some shots out there. Waller felt she could do better than the 4-over-par 76 she shot over the par-72, 5,363-yard course. Still, it was good enough for first place, making her a regional champion and giving her a spot in the PIAA Championships that will be held at Heritage Hills Golf Course in York. The two-round event begins Monday.
“I would give myself a ‘B’,” said Waller. “I was driving pretty good. I just couldn’t make any putts.”
Waller was one of seven local qualifiers. The other included Mia Kness of Peters Township, who was second to Waller in Girls Class AAA with a 6-over 78; Cody Dobbin (37-34-71) and Owen Miller (39-36-75) of Burgettstown and Charleroi’s Gunnar Riley (36-37-73) in Boys Class AA; Corey Long of South Fayette (38-38-76) in Boys Class AAA; and Gillian Alexander of Jefferson-Morgan (41-39-80) in Girls Class AA.
Waller, who was third in last year’s state tournament, and Kness finished 1-2 in the WPIAL Championships at Hillcrest Country Club in Lower Burrell two weeks ago. Waller’s round included two birdies, 10 pars and six bogeys, including a great par save with an up-and-down on the par-4 No. 6.
“It was sloppy out there because of the rain,” said Waller. “But I’m used to this weather, living in Western Pennsylvania.”
Her two birdies were enough to push her to first place. The first came with on the par-4 14th – Waller began on No. 10 in the shotgun start format – sinking an 8-footer. The second came on the par-4 fifth, when she sent a pitching wedge from the rough to within seven feet and sank the putt.
“I was driving good today,” she said, “but I couldn’t make any putts.”
Kness’ chance to catch Waller came apart with back-to-back double-bogeys on the par-5 fourth and par-4 fifth. On both holes, she sent shots into the trees and was forced to chip out.
“I like this course,” Kness said. “It’s different and original. I came out here to have some fun and keep my composure. My driver was acting up a little bit. But the greens were softer and you could keep the ball on them.”
Just a freshman, Kness said she is excited about playing in the state tournament, but there is a down side.
“It’s bad, because I’m going to miss so much school,” she said.
Dobbin’s opportunity to catch Keenan Hickton of Sewickley Academy was lost with four bogeys – two on the front and two on the back – but he was pleased with his 1-under 71 effort the game him second place, two strokes off Hickton’s 3-under 69.
“I was trying to hit as many fairways and make as many putts as possible,” said Dobbin, a sophomore. “I had some good approach shots.”
Dobbin had a run of three birdies over the first four holes of the back nine. His last one came on the par-4 third when he sank an eight-footer. But a bogey on number five ended the charge.
“The course was wet, but reasonable,” he said. “You can spin the ball, but you have to be careful not to spin it too far.”
Miller shot 3-over-par 75 but left the course perplexed.
“I played horrible,” he said. “I missed every putt I looked at.”
He had six pars on the first seven holes of the front nine and finished with 13.
“It was fairway, green, miss the putt. Fairway, green miss the putt,” he said. “My short game was awful.”
Riley strung five pars together on the back nine to finish fourth with a 1-over 73. He shot even-par 36 on the front.
Long, the WPIAL Class AAA champion, had 12 pars and two birdies, but Patrick Sheerer of Fox Chapel was too strong on the back nine, finishing first at 1-under par.
“My goal at the beginning of the year was to make it to states,” said Long. “I’m just hoping my 76 holds up. On a few holes, I had misses. It felt like I played a lot worse.”
Alexander, a junior, overcame a double-bogey on No. 7 with a 25-foot putt on the fringe at No. 8. She only missed one fairway and didn’t have a 3-putt green.
“I feel really good,” she said. “I made it last year. Now, my goal is to post a good score.”