Hunter Bruce wins WPIAL golf title
Hunter Bruce decided three years ago there was only room for one tennis champion in the household. So before he entered high school, the Peters Township sophomore surrendered that sport and concentrated instead on golf, his true love.
“I quit playing tennis because I wanted to focus more on golf,” Bruce said. “I like that sport better.”
And, now, like his mother, he is a champion, too. Bruce shot a one-over-par 73 at the Southpointe Golf Club and captured the 2015 WPIAL Class AAA title for boys' golf. Bruce is the first golf champion from Peters Township.
“Shocking,” he said when he learned that tidbit. “We've had such good teams I am surprised that I am the first one to win it. I've followed the history (of the program) so I am truly surprised. It feels so good. It was a good experience.”
It's been a good experience for Bruce to be reared by a competitive parent. Marcy (Cenkovich) Bruce helped Mt. Lebanon win championships in tennis. In 1987, she combined with Karen Spirer to win the PIAA doubles title. After playing at the College of Charleston in South Carolina, she focused on coaching champions. In 10 seasons, she guided Upper St. Clair to 10 straight section banners, six WPIAL titles and three state championships. She also coached four state championship doubles teams. Currently, she is a teaching professional.
“My mom, she's nuts,” Bruce said with a laugh. “She can be crazy at times. But I love her so.”
Despite its steep hills and distance, Bruce loved the course at the Southpointe Golf Club. The course measured 6,830 yards.
“This course is hard,” he admitted. “You have to hit your lines. You have to hit it straight. If you don't, then you won't score well. You have to be in fairway. You have to be careful on the greens. There are severe slopes and you have to watch your speed on the greens.”
Bruce attacked the course with one strategy in mind. “Just try to make pars,” he said. Down the stretch, he made three pars. He birdied No. 16, draining a long putt and shot par on the final two holes.
Victory, however, was not secured until his teammate, Alec Stopperich, finished. He was in the penultimate threesome and missed a birdie bird that would have forced a playoff. Stopperich carded a 74.
“I got a little nervous when I finished and found out I was in first place,” Bruce admitted. “My teammate had a birdie putt to tie me. I wished he would have made it. A playoff would have been great. I am not upset about it. I am just glad that four of us advanced and qualified for the state qualifier.
Tanner Johnson and Conner Schmidt will join Bruce and Stopperich at the PIAA Western Regional to be played Oct. 19 at Tom'S run Golf Course at Chestnut Ridge in Blairsville. Johnson finished tied for third place with a 75 at the WPIAL finals while Schimdt placed ninth with a 78.
“We're taking it one step at a time,” said Bruce. “We have the team semifinals first and we want to get to Thursday (for the WPIAL team finals). Tom's Run after that. The team goal is to get to the state title. That has never been done before.”
Mia Kness finished sixth in the WPIAL Class AAA girls' golf championships and qualified for the PIAA tournament. The Peters Township junior carded a 79 to finish five strokes off the winning pace set by Hampton's Marissa Balish.
Bella Petrone just missed the cut. The Upper St. Clair junior finished eighth overall with an 83 score.
Taylor Waller from Canon-McMillan and Elizabeth Engel from Upper St. Clair also competed in the tournament. Waller, a sophomore, finished 17th while Engel, a senior, placed 24th.
In the Class AA tournament, Emily Marcus from South Park finished eighth.
Kness returned to section action to help lead Peters to victory, 164-166, against North Allegheny. She carded a 41, as did Synclaire Kuhn and Brooke Hilden. Alyssa Parham also contributed a 43 to the final score.