SF’s Long wins WPIAL title with class

Published Oct 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm (Updated Oct 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm)

When Corey Long finally clinched the WPIAL Class AAA boys’ championships after 22 holes of golf, the South Fayette senior did not break into a celebration, although his mom, Marie, and his aunt, Judy Palmer, were anxious for one.

“They both tried to hug me,” he said. “They were so excited. But I asked them ‘please wait until we get off the course’ because there would be plenty of time to celebrate.”

Before Long left the 6,591-yard course at Diamond Run Golf Club in Sewickley, the 17-year-old duffer doffed his cap and extended his hand to Matt Holuta. His worthy opponent had faltered only on the fourth playoff hole to finish runner-up in the tournament.

While he was thrilled with his triumph, Long said that he did not want to overreact. “I always try to think about the other player’s feelings. You want to show sportsmanship. You want to have class and act like you’ve been there before. You want to acknowledge (your opponent) played well.”

Holuta did play well. But, Long played better, one stroke better. After 18 holes the pair remained tied. Both had carded 3-under-par 67s. That was one stroke better than Upper St. Clair’s Thomas Steve, the section and semifinal medalist, and two strokes ahead of Steve’s teammate, Grant Engel, who finished fourth overall with a 69.

With Long and Holuta tied after a round of golf, they went into a playoff. Both bogeyed the first playoff hole, a par 4 that featured a dog leg right. On the second and third extra holes, both shot par to extend the playoff. After ‘perfect drives’ off the tee on the fourth extra hole, a par 4, Long caught a break when Hotula hit his second shot into the water hazard.

While Long took no glee in that shot, he knew he had his chance to win.

“You don’t root against anybody. That’s not how anyone plays (in golf),” he said. “But, you do feel like ‘hey, I need to take advantage of this.’” Although, he bogeyed the hole, Long did. “It was an adventurous hole,” he said. “I did not know what to think but it was a relieve to finally finish.”

Going into the championships, Long never expected to win. He anticipated being one of the better players. “I know that if I play the way I know how, then I could be one of the top players. I had the potential but I had a lot of work to do.”

Because Long put the work in prior to the finals, his coach Bob Ruffolo saw a championship coming. During the regular season, Long averaged 36.4 on the hilly, 9-hole course at Hickory Heights.

“Corey’s effort at the WPIAL championships was just a small portion of his success,” Ruffolo explained. “He set himself up to win the title long before he stepped on the course at Diamond Run with his hard work. Corey practiced after school. He practiced here. And when he was done, he practiced some more.”

Long focused particularly on his putting. He noted that was the difference in his game and paved the way to victory. According to Ruffolo, Long hit his fairways and greens. He had 29 putts. He putted well.

“Rarely does a golfer have all parts of his game work well but everything seemed to be going well for me. I shot well. I got a lot of quality shots and my putting was working. It wasn’t an effort to put the ball in the hole.”

According to Ruffolo, Long understands the importance of putting and he works extensively on that aspect of his game. “Corey takes pride in it,” Ruffolo said.

Three weeks ago, his putts finally started to fall and the day before the championships, Long carded four birdies out of nine holes at Hickory Heights, noted Ruffolo. “That’s tough to do,” he said. “That (putting) was the difference for Corey at WPIALs.”

His parents, William and Marie, as well as his coach have made the difference in Long’s approach to the sport. Long grew up playing baseball, a sport in which his father excelled. In eighth grade, he started to focus solely on golf.

“My dad taught me everything I know about sports and my parents, obviously, have instilled in me good manners,” he said. “Plus, my coach always tells us to respect the course and our opponent. Be polite and have sportsmanship. I think it’s important especially in golf because it’s all on you when you are out there on the course. You are responsible for your play.”

Long’s next responsibility comes in the PIAA qualifier to be held Oct. 16 at Tom Run’s Golf Course in Blairsville. The top 20 finishers advance to the state championships set for Oct. 21-22.

“Of course, I would love to win a state title,” Long admitted, “but I’m excited about the qualifiers first. I’m just going to go out and shoot as well as I can.”

According to Ruffolo, Long’s goal is similar to the WPIAL championships. The goal is to advance. At the district finals, the top 14 finishers advanced. Hence, his goal is to finish well at the regional. “His first and only goal will be to hit his first tee shot on the first hole and then set up his second shot with the iron,” Ruffolo said. “You can’t focus too far ahead because that’s when you run into trouble.”

NOTES: In addition, Long, Steve and Engel, Josh Verner from Peters Township advanced to the PIAA qualifier. The senior carded a 76 and finished 11th overall.

Corey Long File

Age: 17

Parents: William and Marie

Sibling: Ryan

School: South Fayette

Year: Senior

Sport: Golf

Favorite class: Business Management.

College choices: St. Francis, Allegheny, Washington & Jefferson.

Major: Accounting

Favorite color: Red

Best book: The Outliers by Malcom Gladwell

TV show: Breaking Bad

Movie: The Other Guys

Who would play you in a movie: Vince Vaughn

The Steeler need: Everything. Right now, they are not too strong on either side of the ball; offense or defense.

The Pirates are: Awesome. I love watching them play. The atmosphere at their games is amazing.

Favorite golfer: Phil Mickleson. He’s a good sport on and off the course. He’s an example of what sports are supposed to be all about.

Best Bucco: Jason Grilli because he’s a big fan of Pearl Jam like me.

Choice course: Oakmont Country Club, where Long has carded 76 four times.

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