Sunday, September 4, 2022 | 11:01 a.m.
One of the standards of the Sewickley Academy Boys Golf Program is its “commitment to excellence”.
With coach Win Palmer as the team’s architect, Sewickley won eight consecutive WPIAL championships from 2013 to 2020.
“The commitment to excellence speaks to the goals of a strong work ethic to better prepare before and during the golf season,” Palmer said. “It evokes the idea of being the best teammate possible to help your teammates on the range, putting green and golf course. It speaks to the purpose of exceptional sportsmanship – to be humble when you succeed, be useful to other teams, especially those who may not have the same resources that we do.
“Finally, it speaks to the pursuit of excellence in that you are never satisfied with a good shot, a good round or a good season. You always want to improve.
Palmer, who is also an athletic director and men’s basketball coach at SA, is in his 17th year as the varsity head coach of the golf team. He also coached college golf in Northern Virginia for 15 years.
“My philosophy is that my role is to connect with every player on the team so that they trust me when I ask them to deviate from something they’re used to,” Palmer said. “During training, we will make adjustments. During a match, I will wait until the end of the round to propose an adjustment.
“Course management and emotional health require constant attention during a game of golf. If a player is struggling, I look for something positive they accomplished that day to refocus their thoughts. Golf is a tough sport where your opponent is the golf course, not the other team. Sometimes the golf course can get the better of you, so focus on what you can control, which is usually the next shot.
Palmer addressed his coaching style.
“I have a calm demeanor during a golf match,” he said. “When I started coaching, losses in the regular season were considered necessary for the development of the team. Now too many people are worried about a win-loss record during the regular season. Losing should make people want to improve and prepare better.
“Experience is the best teacher of all, and I know this year’s team will improve by playing so many different golf courses that require different strategies and mental approaches. By revising our approach afterwards, the opportunities for learning and gaining confidence are enormous.
Over the years, Sewickley golf teams have won 21 Section titles and 11 WPIAL championships, qualified for the PIAA Finals in six seasons (all since 2014) and won state titles in 2015, 2017 and 2019.
From 2013 to 2020, Sewickely went 137-18.
“We’ve had an incredible group of talented golfers, a number of whom have gone on to play college golf at top colleges,” Palmer said. “Most of them have had the opportunity to compete in the NCAA Tournament and a number of them have earned all-conference honors and even made All-American teams. Their commitment to excellence continues to inspire our current golfers.
Which SA golf team is considered the best in school history?
“All three state championship teams definitely rank up there,” Palmer said. “We also had a team that finished second in states that had a number of talented golfers who made it (success) through college and played in the US Amateur.”
Sewickley finished third in the WPIAL last season with a 9-5 record.
“We had some great leaders last year with Will Dugan and Jack Gordon, so we’ve made great strides as a program,” Palmer said. “We gained invaluable experience with three freshmen in the roster. Thanks to everyone’s efforts, we are back to competing for a WPIAL Championship.
“Quaker Valley and Derry are the favorites (in 2A) because of the many talented golfers they bring back from last year.”
SA seniors Joey Mucci, a four-year-old starter, and Nick Straka provide a terrific brace in the Panthers’ roster this season.
“Joey has had an amazing career, starting on a state championship team and winning individual honors,” Palmer said. “Nick started last year and has put a lot of time and energy into improving his game.
“They will be two outstanding leaders for us as we navigate a most challenging and fun sectionless competition.”
Mucci was a freshman on the 2019 team, the last QV golf team to win a state championship. He joined seniors JF Aber and Zoe Luther and juniors Tim Fitzgerald and Navin Rana in the starting lineup this season.
The Panthers are talented this year with Leon Jiao, a senior, and sophomores Severin Harmon, Karan Kad and Nolan Donnelly to provide significant depth in the game day lineup. These four, along with Mucci and Straka, give the Panthers an exceptional chance to be front and center in the WPIAL playoff picture.
“Leon is another senior we expect good things from,” Palmer said. “Our three sophomores, Severin, Karan and Nolan, will also be major contributors to our team this year.”
Mucci, Straka and Harmon were 2021 WPIAL finalists.
Other South African golfers looking to make an impact this season include seniors Alexander McClain and Jordan Smith, juniors Logan Carlson, Lucas Ratkovich and James Terrell, and freshmen Niko Frazzini, Luke Palguta and Bill Pietragallo.
“Our players know how much I love competition because I believe you learn a lot about yourself through competition,” Palmer said, “so they understand my drive for excellence. We never talk about winning because that’s an end goal that can only be achieved by staying in the moment and focusing on the next shot In our three state championship wins, we were behind by 10 shots or more.Most of our golfers were aware of this, but thanks to all of our mental work throughout the season, they believed in themselves and knew that if they performed well, the championship could be ours.
“As an example, this year’s golf team is not ready to compete for a WPIAL championship if it happens tomorrow. However, our guys have an incredible work ethic and commitment to each other. others, so I know that in a month we will be better prepared for the competition.
Palmer is an avid golfer with a low handicap. Its competitive time on the links is reduced during the fall months.
“I love golf,” he said. “My handicap has been as low as 2, but I don’t play golf as much as it takes to keep it that low.”
Sewickley is a member of Section 9-2A with Aquinas Academy, Bishop Canevin, Eden Christian, Quaker Valley and Winchester Thurston.
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