When the Tryba Preseason Invitational begins today with a 9 a.m. shotgun start at Fox Hill Country Club, a new champion is guaranteed to be crowned.
For the first time since 2007, someone other than Pittston Area's Brandon Matthews will walk away with a victory.
Now, that the Patriot great is at Temple to continue his athletic and academic career, Pittston Area coach Len Benfante is hoping his personal streak continues this afternoon. It would also be a fitting end to a successful career for Benfante, who is in his final season after leading the team for 23 years.
Ryan Tracy and Chris Lynch are two Patriots who have legitimate chances of winning the event and extending their coach's stretch. Tracy is one of the top golfers in the Wyoming Valley Conference, while Lynch has posted solid scores early on for his team.
"I was thinking about packing it in after Brandon but these seniors made it easy to come back," Benfante said.
"It would be really special if they were to do that. To go out on a note like that would be a thrill. I would really love to see one of the kids do that that would be great."
There will be stiff competition for the PA duo, including Holy Redeemer's Mariano Medico and Chase Makowski, who both are coming off appearances in a national tournament in North Carolina and are two of the elite in the league.
Coughlin's Shamus Gartley, who was a regional qualifier in 2010 and Wyoming Valley West's Chris McCue are two other favorites and Fox Hill is their home course.
In the team competition, Holy Redeemer is a strong favorite to claim its third straight tournament title. Coughlin has been playing well to open the season and, along with Wyoming Valley West and Pittston Area should give the Royals fits. Berwick and Crestwood should also be near the top of the standings when the final scores are calculated.
Majority rules amongst Wyoming Valley Conference coaches when it comes to being in favor of the new divisional alignment. Just a few are opposed.
But those against the change have legitimate concerns.
In the previous four seasons, the league was aligned geographically. So Tunkhannock, the team furthest away from the rest had matches against schools closer to the area. Now, the Tigers will play Hazleton Area, Crestwood and Berwick, all schools that require a lot of traveling and more expenses.
Another team that the new changes don't favor is Holy Redeemer. The Royals are the favorite to claim the league title no matter who they are pitted against. But instead of playing the bigger teams, Redeemer will face smaller, undermanned schools.
One team that benefits from the change is MMI. The Preppers have always struggled playing in the Southern Division going up against big guns like Crestwood, Dallas, Wyoming Valley West, Berwick and Hazleton Area. This season, MMI will play schools and teams its own size like Meyers, GAR and Nanticoke to name a few.
"I'm for it 100 percent," MMI coach Mike Morrison said. "When it was based on geography, there was just no way (we would compete). Now, it's much fairer."
Mike Dulina, a veteran of the game takes over at Hazleton Area for Del Kelshaw, while Huntsville Golf Club assistant pro Matt Occhiato is the new coach at Wyoming Seminary relieving Tim Foran.
Today: Preseason Tryba Tournament at Fox Hill Country Club; Sept. 24: Pre-District Tournament at Fox Hill Country Club; Sept. 27: Wyoming Valley Conference Playoffs; Oct. 1: District 2 Individual Championships; TBA: District 2 Team Playoffs; Oct. 15-16: Regional Tournament at sites to be announced; Oct. 22-24: PIAA Championships at Heritage Hills and Springwood Golf Course, York.