This has been a strange and unusual year for everyone, but high school golf is one area that has been largely unchanged by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s been a blessing for everyone involved, and it’s been a pleasure to get to watch out First Tee – Pittsburgh participants compete this fall.
As many of you know, I’ve been deeply involved in high school golf for a long time. I served as a volunteer Assistant Coach with the Hamilton High School Boy’s Golf team in Chandler, Arizona for ten years, and they just won their eighth state team title (www.hamiltongolf.org), and were led by Junior Mahanth Chirravuri (66-64 – 130), who won the individual title. I’ve known Mahanth since he was five years old, and he was a First Tee – Phoenix member at Lone Tree Golf Club where I used to teach and coach. He was also a member of our first ever PGA Junior League All-Star team at Lone Tree in 2014.
Why am I telling you this? Because I’ve been watching our First Tee – Pittsburgh members going through the same growth process over the past few years, and it’s been great fun watching them mature as people and as golfers. Most of my responsibilities as a First Tee coach have been focused on our Birdie, Eagle and Ace participants, and in managing the PGA Junior League program.
Over the past few years, I have had the great privilege of watching Patrick Bush (Belle Vernon) and Izabela Aigner (Greensburg Central Catholic) go through this process. They were both members of our First Tee – Pittsburgh PGA Junior League All-Star team in 2018, and over the last two summers I’ve watched them participate in our classes and compete in a variety of junior golf tournaments..
The time, effort and energy they have put into developing their golf and life skills has begun to show dividends. Patrick advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA Boys Golf Individual finals at South HIlls Country Club, and Izabela’s season just ended with a silver medal in the PIAA Class AA GirlsTeam finals on Monday in York.
We’ve had many other success stories this fall, as you may have seen on our social media channels. Eli Half (Allderdice) won the Pittsburgh Public Schools championship at North Park, and Tori Slagle (Upper St. Clair), Jamie Rush (Canon McMillan), Kaylee Houy (Blackhawk) and Victoria Witouski (Mars) were all among the 35 players who qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA Girls Individual finals at Oakmont Country Club.
This was the FIRST TIME EVER that Oakmont hosted the WPIAL Girls individual finals, and as I told them all after they were done, it’s a memory they will cherish more as time passes.
It’s been a great experience watching all of these young people use the skills they have learned during their time with First Tee – Pittsburgh to chase after their dreams and goals on the golf course. They have chosen to play hard and have fun every day, and we’re proud of the rewards they have begun to accumulate through their effort and work ethic!
Submitted by Coach Eric Kulinna, PGA
Director of Golf and Player Development