SPRINGETTSBURY — Conestoga junior Andrew Willner arrived at the 18th tee at the Heritage Hills Golf Resort with a one-shot lead and a PIAA Class AAA title in his grasp Tuesday.
He walked off the 18th green a frustrated runnerup, but when he had a chance to gather himself a few minutes later, he realized he had given himself a chance at a state title and that left him in pretty elite company.
Willner's approach to the 471-yard, par-4 18th hole at Heritage Hills found the water and he was in trouble, but still not out of it.
"I had 190 yards, I hit a 5-iron and I got it a little thin, it wasn't the greatest of lies,' said Willner, a member at Phoenixville Country Club.
He still had a 20-foot putt for bogey that would have made the hole a little smaller for Upper St. Clair senior Grant Engel. But Willner's putt just slid by. Engel dropped his 12-footer for par and the state championship. Willner missed the comebacker for a triple-bogey 7 at the finishing hole.
Still, he finished with a second-round of 5-over 76 and a 7-over 149 total that left him in second place, two shots back of Engel, who added a 2-over 73 to his opening-round 74 for a 5-over 147 total. It was the best finish by a Central League golfer at the PIAA Tournament since Lower Merion's Greg Jarmas was the runnerup in 2009.
"I made a lot of putts,' Willner said. "It was close all day. It was a great match, great competition.'
Willner bolted out of the gate Tuesday with birdies at the first, second and fifth holes. He cooled off with a bogey at six, a double bogey at seven and a bogey at eight to make the turn at 1-over 37. He led Engel by two shots at that point.
Engle inched within a shot with a par at the par-3 15th hole while Willner made bogey. But both players parred the tricky par-4 16th and 17th holes and Willner carried that one-shot edge to the last hole.
"I was really excited about being here,' said Willner, who hones his game in the summer on the Philadelphia PGA Junior Tour and Golf Association of Philadelphia circuits. "I didn't make it here last year. It's great to be competing against the best players in the state.'
Willner was one of three Chester County boys to come away from York County with state medals in Class AAA.
Downingtown West senior Liam McAnally had a 3-over 74 Tuesday to finish in a four-way tie for fifth at 10-over 152. And Bishop Shananhan junior Kevin Conners, coming off a first-place finish in the East Regioinal Tournament last week, finished ninth. Conners was tied for second with Willner at 3-over 74 following Monday's opening round, but fell back with an 80 Tuesday.
Among the girls, Owen J. Roberts sophomore Maddie Sager claimed a fifth-place medal in Class AAA as she carded a second-round 77 Tuesday to finish in a tie for fifth with Radnor sophomore Brynn Walker at 160.
Coatesville sophomore Samantha Staudt, making her second appearance at the state tournament, added a second-round 84 to her opening-round 83 to finish in a tie for 11th at 167.
In Class AA, defending champion Cara Basso, a junior at Villa Maria Academy, rebounded from an opening-round 88 to card an 82 Tuesday and finish in a tie for seventh at 170.
BOYSAt Heritage Hills Golf Resort, 6,700 yards, par 71 Class AAA
Grant Engel (Upper St. Clair) 74-71—147; Andrew Willner (Conestoga) 73-76—149; Anthony Sebastianelli (Abington Heights) 75-75—150; Ryan Dornes (Manheim Township) 72-79—151; Sam Soeth (Marple Newtown) 77-75—152; Liam McAnally (Downingtown West) 78-74—152; Brandon Vance (Methacton) 78-74—152; Nick Johnson (Scranton Prep) 75-77—152; Kevin Conners (Bishop Shanahan) 73-80—153; Patrick Sheerer (Fox Chapel) 77-77—154; Thomas Steve (Upper St. Clair) 79-75—154.Other District One finishers: Steve Cerbara (Holy Ghost Prep) 77-78—155; Kyle Vance (Methacton) 81-74—155; Vinay Ramesh (Pennsbury) 77-79—156; John Foley (Spring-Ford) 82-75—157; Jalen Griffin (Wissahickon) 80-80—160.
Isaiah Logue (Fairfield) 70-69—139; Cole Miller (Northwestern Lehigh) 69-72—141; Roland Massimino (New Hope-Solebury) 73-72—145; Owen Miller (Burgettstown) 73-73—145; Keenan Hickton (Sewickley Academy) 74-72—146; Mariano Medico (Holy Redeemer) 77-74—151; Noah Firestone (Mount Calvary Christian) 78-75—153.
GIRLSAt Heritage Hills Golf Resort, 5,375 yards, par 72Class AAA
Isabella DiLisio (Mount St. Joseph) 75-73—148; Jackie Rogowicz (Pennsbury) 74-76—150; Erica Herr (Council Rock North) 75-76—151; Lauren Waller (Cannon McMillan) 73-78—151.Other District One finishers: Madeline Herr (Council Rock North) 83-83—166; Samantha Staudt (Coatesville) 83-84—167.
Macky Fouse (Central Valley) 75-77—152; Joey Walz (Seton La Salle) 76-82—160; Maddy McDaniel (Central Valley) 83-78—161; Megan Moylan (Northeast) 84-77—161; Shannon Weber (Kutztown) 79-87—166.
Cara Basso (Villa Maria) 82-88--170.
District One finisher: Cara Basso (Villa Maria Academy) 88-82—170.