by Tom Utescher
PIAA state team champions in golf in 2007 and 2008, the Mount St. Joseph Magic have earned a trip back to the state tournament for the first time since 2009.
The Mounties did it by recording a four-player score of 314 in the District 1 tournament early last week at Gilbertsville Golf Club, where they finished five strokes ahead of two-time district champ and defending state champion Radnor High School. The Mount had lost by close margins in two regular-season meetings with Radnor this fall.
When the Magic last appeared at States, the teams in attendance were all grouped together, not broken down into enrollment-based categories as in other sports. With entries increasing each year, the PIAA began to divide the teams up in golf as well, and the Mount’s victory last week came in the large school division, Class AAA. The Class AA team champ in District 1 was another Catholic Academies team, Gwynedd Mercy, which scored a 369.
This year, there’s another change in procedure for qualifying teams. For the past several years, district winners have had to compete in a regional tournament before reaching the state tourney at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York, Pa. Now, only individual qualifiers will have to pass through the regional stage, with team district champions going straight through to the big dance.
Central Bucks East was the district winner in 2010, and the last two seasons Radnor captured the title just ahead of runner-up Mount St. Joe. Last week, closely-spaced scoring took the Magic past the Red Raiders.
Junior star Isabella DiLisio fired a five-over 76 at Gilbertsville, where play was halted by rain after 14 holes were played on Monday, with the final four holes completed on Tuesday morning. It was the group of teammates close behind DiLisio that put the Magic over the top.
Fellow junior Maggie Schoeller shot a 78 and senior captain Alison Snakard carded a 79. Sophomore Megan Bray rounded out the official team score with an 81, and fifth-man Joanie Gannon, also a 10th-grader, wasn’t far behind, with an 83.
First-year MSJ coach Mike Brown related, “After we lost one of those earlier matches with Radnor by one stroke, it drove home to the girls that every single stroke counted. With our team, what makes a difference is just playing one shot at a time and shaving off a few putts here and there.”
For one practice session the previous week, he said, “We went out to Blue Bell [Country Club] for the day and the girls could only bring their wedges and their putters.”
Last week, the single round of the district team tourney at Gilbertsville also served as the first leg of the two-round individual championship for District 1. After team play was concluded at Gilbertsville Tuesday morning, the action for the individual competitors moved to nearby Turtle Creek, a more challenging course largely due to its greater length.
The consistent DiLisio once more scored a 76 for a two day total of 152, becoming one of the eight players from the district to advance to the regional individual tournament. At the end of the round, Snakard was tied for the eighth spot with Samantha Staudt of Coatesville High School, and Staudt won a playoff hole to claim the last berth for Regionals.
Neither DiLisio, nor anyone else, matched her two-day score at Districts from 2012, when her total of 137 on the same two courses netted her the individual title. This year another 11th-grader, Jackie Rogowicz of Pennsbury High School, won comfortably with a 138. She was followed by Radnor sophomore Brynn Walker (145), and two sisters from Council Rock North, senior Erica Herr (147) and her sophomore sibling Madeline (149). DiLisio was fifth with her 152.
Surveying the statewide golf scene, Coach Brown feels that District 1 is most likely the strongest district top-to-bottom, but he knows the Magic can’t afford to overlook some talented squads from other areas.
“We’ll have to play well to win,” he observed, “but I think the girls are more than capable.”