For the past three seasons, Tunkhannock has put a stellar girls golf team on the course.
The Tigers advanced to the District 2 Class 3A team championships three years in a row with consecutive titles the last two seasons before not being able to field a full female squad in 2016.
All was not lost for the Tunkhannock girls this season though. The four remaining golfers joined forces with the boys to help lead the Tigers to a Wyoming Valley Conference Division 1 championship.
“When they came out as freshmen, they weren’t even noticed by the Wyoming Valley Conference as an entity,” Tunkhannock coach Andy Neely said. “And now in their senior year, they were competing along with those guys who didn’t notice us initially, and now we’re beating those guys. It was a little bit of vindication I guess.
“When you’re the two-time defending district champion you want to be able to defend that. The three-peat would have been pretty cool if we were able to do it. But the guys team also needed some help.”
The team’s success was further cemented last week when Brittany Zamber became the first girl in school history to reach the East Regional, which will be held Monday at Glen Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood. Other Tunkhannock females have reached the state tournament, but before the regional was created, they advanced right to states after districts. With four district medals (three team and one individual), Zamber also became the most decorated golfer in school history.
When she plays her 18 holes on Monday, Zamber will also be the first regional qualifier from Tunkhannock since Dakota Brown in 2007.
Zamber needs a finish in the top 12 on Monday in the Class 3A girls tournament to advance to the PIAA Championships. She is one of two girls from the Wyoming Valley Conference playing in the regional event and one of just three players from the conference. She’s joined by MMI Prep’s Jessica McClellan and Dallas’ Mason Gattuso.
The golfers took in a practice round on Sunday and Neely said the course is playing long with the longest yardage from a girls tee being 512 yards and the most yardage from the boys tee being 567. But Neely has a plan in place for those who can’t drive the ball 300 yards, including Zamber.
“If you get the ball on the fairways, you seem to get a nice bounce,” the 11-year Tunkhannock coach said. “So for those players who don’t have the length, they have to get the accuracy and hopefully try to make the best score as you can from the fairways.”
Zamber rebounded from shooting a 99 at the Pre-District Tournament to improving by 12 shots at districts last week as she worked on her hitting game and has continued that in practice before Monday’s event.
“We figured a couple things out with her swing, but the contact she’s making now, especially with the longer club, it’s repeatable,” Neely said.
Gattuso became the first district champion from Dallas in at least the last 20 years. He will try to reach the PIAA Championships now coming off a score of 75 last week at Elmhurst Country Club. His 75 last week was his second straight round at the course with the latter being a higher score. He will try to finish in the top 24 in the Class 3A boys event on Monday to reach the state tournament, which is set for Oct. 24-26 at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York.
McClellan, believed to be the first female regional golf qualifier in school history and the first golfer for MMI to advance since Sam Harman qualified in 2014, has to finish in the top 7 in her Class 2A tourney to advance to states. The WVC Class 2A Pre-District girls champ scored 90 at districts last week, it was her second-lowest score in three 18-hole events she’s participated in this season.
Driving for an end
The WVC has encountered tough times the last two years at the regional tournament. The league has not had a golfer qualify for the PIAA championships since 2013 when Holy Redeemer’s Mariano Medico reeled in a sixth-place state medal.
In fact, since 2008, the WVC has just four state qualifiers. Pittston Area’s Brandon Matthews, Wyoming Area’s Vicky Petrosky and Holy Redeemer’s Mike Napkori join Medico as the last state qualifiers from the conference. Matthews and Medico are the only two out of the foursome to earn a medal, including Matthews’ 2010 state title.
An unexpected ending
Three of the top boys golfers all season in the WVC saw their seasons unexpectedly conclude last week at districts. Coughlin’s Ryan Keyes, who was a returning regional qualifier and the reigning Times Leader Golfer of the Year, finished three strokes behind the regional qualifying spot at last week’s District 2 championships.
Crestwood’s Shane Angle, who won the Pre-District Tournament a week before districts, ended the D2 tournament two strokes behind Keyes in the Class 3A tourney.
In Class 2A, Lake-Lehman senior Adam Motovidlak, a two-time WVC Class 2A Pre-District champ, ran into bad luck for the third straight year at districts. This time around, the senior was just one stroke behind the sixth and final qualifying position for regionals. In his sophomore and junior seasons, Motovidlak was in a playoff for the last berth to move on, but fell dramatically both times.