Franklin Regional boys, girls golfers aim for promising seasons

September 27, 2018
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The Franklin Regional boys and girls golf teams have a mix of veteran and new talent, and both are off to strong starts this season.

With senior Palmer Jackson, one of the top golfers in the state, the Panthers boys squad hopes to return to the playoffs after missing the tournament the past two seasons.

Jackson, who placed third at last year’s WPIAL Class AAA championship at Nemacolin Country Club, shot a 33 last Thursday on Franklin Regional’s home course at Meadowink.

“He keeps us in a lot of matches,” Panthers coach Jeff Traphagen said. “He had a great summer. He’s at the top of his game right now.”

Jackson tied for second at last year’s state event, one stroke behind the state champion.

Traphagen said he likes the way the team has come together in preseason practices and the first series of matches. The work the golfers put in over the spring and summer is showing their play, he said.

Clayton Skoff and Ethan Yohe, who made their mark in WPIAL individual tournaments the past couple of seasons, led a group that moved on because of graduation. Skoff golfs at Gannon, and Yohe is on the team at Penn State Altoona.

But Chuck Tragesser is back after a freshman season that saw him qualify for the WPIAL individual semifinals.

“Chuck is a lot more mature player,” Traphagen said. “He makes better decisions on the course. He’s just playing a lot more consistently.”

Franklin Regional had four golfers shoot in the 30s in a 191-207 nonsection victory last week over Greensburg Salem. Jackson led the way with a 36, Tragesser and sophomore Michael Wareham each shot 37, and junior Ben Wohlin carded a 39.

Those also hoping to make their marks this year include senior Mathieu Sliva, juniors Jack Cully and Connor Helm and freshmen Jeff Anderchak and Zack Abdallah.

The players will be able to test their mettle at the section qualifier Sept. 17 at Willowbrook Golf Club with the hopes of moving on to the semifinals Sept. 25 and the finals Oct. 2 at Oakmont Country Club.

“We’ve had more than one player at the WPIAL finals last two years,” Traphagen said. “That says a lot about the program that we have individuals who are able to play late into the season.”

In addition to its section and nonsection matches, Franklin Regional kicked off the season with a fourth-place finish behind Central Catholic, Fox Chapel and Cathedral Prep at the annual Gary Garrison Invitational on Aug. 20 at Latrobe Country Club. Jackson didn’t play as he was finishing up competition at the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association’s Amateur Championship.

Tragesser finished sixth out of 36 golfers.

The Franklin Regional girls team ran its record to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in Section 3-AAA with a 192-207 win over Norwin on Aug. 29 at Victory Hills in Elizabeth Township.

Coach Kane Daignault said he likes the way his golfers have performed out of the gate.

“We have a pretty good team, a solid team,” he said. “We have two young girls playing really well, better than expected. Everyone is stepping up at different times to help with the team scoring. It’s a nice mix.”

Daignault and the rest of the team first had to say goodbye to four-year starter and two-time WPIAL finals qualifier Jocelyn Behr.

Behr, Daignault said, is a great example to show younger golfers the results of hard work and determination. Now a freshman on the Westminster women’s team, Behr shot in the low to mid 50s as a freshman but carded several rounds in the upper 30s as a senior last fall.

Freshman Caroline Tragesser, Daignault said, came to the Franklin Regional golf program with prior experience, and so far, she has made an impact.

She carded a team-best 43 in a 182-207 triumph over section foe Indiana on Aug. 28.

Of the 18 on the roster, seven are seniors with a sizable contingent of younger players in four sophomores and six freshmen.

Senior Baylee Horvath is in her fourth year as a starter. Daignault said she is one of the most consistent performers on the team.

Fellow seniors Hailey Politano and Payton Shilling, Daignault said, have both golfed well in the early-season matches, and he also expects nice things for sophomore Lila Shilling.

Sophomores Reilley Woehler and Brooke Horvath and senior Jenna Jezek also hope to challenge for positions in the lineup this season.

Daignault said he’s encouraged by the improvement of several of the freshmen who are playing golf for the first time.

“They are starting to figure it out,” he said. “They start out hoping to just hit the ball and now their games are getting to the point where they can form their own swing and move on to other aspects of their game.”

Franklin Regional was to golf against section rival Penn-Trafford on Tuesday before Wednesday’s Westmoreland County Coaches Association tournament. Both events were to be contested past the deadline for this week’s edition.

The Panthers face Gateway in section play at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Murrysville Golf Course.

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