HANOVER TWP. — After young Holy Redeemer golfer Kip Miller sank his final putt for par, the Pittston Area golf coach was the first to greet him in a moment of glory.
It was a golden day for both of them.
Jason Miller, the leader of a proud Patriots program, shot a 77 to win the gold medal in the men’s Open 30-39 age group and his nephew Kip shot to the top of the 14-15 class with an 86 as the Keystone State Games concluded Monday with a day of golf that turned into some family fun at Wyoming Valley Country Club.
“It was great,” said Kip Miller, who will enter his sophomore year at Redeemer next month after spending his freshman season near the bottom of the Royals’ rotation. “This is one of the first major tournaments I’ve taken first place in.”
Former Wyoming Valley West standout Molly Gorman, a good friend of Jason Miller’s who golfed with him in a twosome, was the only competitor in the women’s Open 30-39 category. But with a finish of 81, it may have been difficult for any other women in that age group to beat her for the gold anyway.
“I was the only girl. I won before I even started,” said Gorman, a two-time USGA amateur qualifier for events in San Antonio and Indianapolis who made the PIAA tournament when she shot for Valley West. “I was disappointed, competition makes it a lot more fun. I still had a really good time playing.”
She settled for trying to better the performance of Jason Miller, as each tried to one-up the other.
“Friendly competition. It’s unspoken, but of course there is,” Jason Miller said. “Molly and I are friends, she’s a really, really good player. We’ve been playing together a long time.”
Jason Miller took his time joining the Keystone Games golf event, but signed up two weeks ago — at the last minute for registration — at the urging of Kip.
“To be honest, I haven’t been playing a lot of competitive golf lately,” Jason Miller said. “My nephew told me about it, he signed up and he kind of talked me into it.”
Jason Miller said he struggled wind up 6-over on the par-71 course.
“Course played difficult,” Jason Miller said. “The rough was real high, the greens were fast. I didn’t play as well as I had hoped. But I did well in my age group.”
At a younger age, Gorman was a regular in Keystone Games golf when the event stopped by the Wilkes-Barre area for a few years in the 1990s.
“I was in my early teens,” Gorman said. “Used to be at Wilkes-Barre Muni. It was a good time then, just like it was today.”
The Forty Fort resident, who golfed on scholarship for Division 1 women’s college programs Mount St. Mary’s and Towson, was the Ladies Club Champion at Irem Temple Country Club before leaving to work on her masters degree this year.
After a difficult start — “Off the first tee, I was in the trees on the right,” she said — Gorman made birdie and rolled through a strong middle stretch where she hit birdies on 11 and 13 between making par on 12.
“I just kind of rallied back a little bit,” Gorman said.
Cheering it all was her dad, Tom Gorman.
“I was a one-person gallery,” he laughed.
Meanwhile, after their day on the course ended, Jason Miller went to watch his nephew, driving him through his final holes of the day on a cart.
Also a member of Holy Redeemer’s baseball team and the Keystone Games Pocono baseball team that finished out of the medal round, it seems Kip Miller is quickly learning the ups and downs of golf.
He made an exhilarating birdie, but the good vibes he got from that didn’t last long when he started to struggle on the very next hole.
“Number 10 was hard,” Kip Miller said. “I hoped, coming off a big hole in the back, it would carry over. It was a big momentum change.”
Still, he shrugged off a bad drive to make par in five strokes on the 11th hole.
“There was number 11,” Kip Miller beamed, “I had a big shot. I came out of the woods and somehow pulled off a par, saved the round.”
Now, he may be saving his best for the upcoming high school golf season.
“My family is a bit of a golfing family,” Kip Miller said. “In past years, I didn’t play in tournaments. I wasn’t the best at it. I really came through this year.
“I’m trying to get better.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski