Jake Caldwell said he had a couple bad holes, but that wasn’t enough to derail the Belle Vernon senior’s bid to win his first FCCA Golf Championship.
Caldwell shot a 4-over 74 at Duck Hollow Golf Club on Friday to take the top prize in the county golf tournament.
Caldwell was one of four Belle Vernon golfers to earn All-County honors as the Leopards won the team title with a total of 397. Uniontown won the small school title after shooting 434.
Caldwell, along with Laurel Highlands’ Cain Basinger, was sitting in the clubhouse with a share of the lead last year, but the Mustangs’ Steven Ross bettered the pair by a stroke for the title.
Caldwell edged teammate Patrick Bush, a freshman, by one stroke and another teammate, Tyler Mocello, by two shots for the top prize.
The senior had to rally from a triple bogey-6 on No. 3, a par-3, when his ball ricocheted off the green into the pond behind the green.
“I birdied No. 4. I had three birdies after the triple,” Caldwell said of his recovery. “What really got me back was No. 6. I tried to drive the green.”
His tee shot was just short of the green. Caldwell chipped up and made the birdie putt.
“Once I made birdie, I said I’m heading back to where it should’ve been,” said Caldwell.
A bad tee shot led to his second big number of the round, a double bogey on No. 11.
“(No. 11), in general, is pretty hard,” said Caldwell. “I was way short on No. 12, but saved bogey.”
He bogeyed No. 13, birdied No. 15, had another bogey on the 16th hole, but answered with a birdie on No. 17. He closed with a par on the final hole.
“My irons on the back were not very good,” said Caldwell.
Caldwell, Bush and Mocello all qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals to be played on Monday. Caldwell advanced to the finals last year at Oakmont Country Club. This year’s district championship is at Fox Chapel Country Club.
“I wanted to come out relaxed in preparation for play on Monday,” explained Caldwell. “I’m relaxed going into Monday with this round and going 2-under (Thursday in the section-clinching win against Thomas Jefferson).”
Bush adapted as his round progressed to earn runner-up honors in his first county championship.
“I’ll take it,” Bush said of his 75. “I just knew I had to hit the ball high to land soft. As long as I did that, I could shoot par.”
Bush, too, used the round as prep for Monday’s semifinal.
“This gives me confidence. I’ll see what Monday brings,” added Bush.
Mocello overcame a triple bogey on No. 10 to finish third. He played the front nine in 38, as he did the back. He responded with a string of pars to right the ship.
“My driver put me in trouble. I had two or three bad shots with my driver,” said Mocello.
The sophomore echoed his teammates’ sentiments about preparing for the semifinal.
“I played relaxed. I wanted to get ready for the semis on Monday,” said Mocello.
Uniontown’s Adena Rugola and Jeff Golembiewski both shot 81 to round out the top-5 finishers. Rugola also was the girls’ medalist.
Rugola said she had some issues on the greens.
“’Three putts?’ I had at least six or eight,” Rugola said, answering her own question. “Primarily, I had bad speed.”
Rugola wasn’t real pleased with her overall game Friday, saying, “Overall, it was atrocious. I straightened out my woods and irons. I scrambled very well today.
“I gave a lot of shots away today, at least 10, from stupid mistakes.”
The Red Raiders earned a berth into the team playoffs and Rugola will play in the Class AAA girls championship on Oct. 2.
“Today, coming out, I relaxed. I’m starting to sort myself out. I’m glad I have 1½ weeks before the next round. I have time to work everything out,” said Rugola.
Golembiewski shot 45 on the front, but turned things around on the back, generally regarded as the tougher side, with a 36.
“I birdied No. 9. I told myself to turn it around from there,” said Golembiewski. “I had a double bogey on No. 11, but I birdied No. 13. That was a big momentum swing.”
Golembiewski added, “This is my best finish ever in all four years.”
Belle Vernon’s Adreana Scaramucci (83), Uniontown’s Gage Brugger (84), Frazier’s Tyler Hoffman (85) and Noah Usher (86), and Laurel Highlands’ Megan Joyce (85) rounded out the top-10 finishers to earn All-County honors.