HOLLIDAYSBURG Central Cambria's Ed Maruca has experienced his fair share of disappointments at the Scotch Valley Country Club.
Two years ago at the District 6 boys golf championships, Maruca lost in a playoff for the final PIAA Western Regional spot, and last year he missed the playoff by one stroke.
Maruca was back in a playoff Wednesday, but this time, all he had to do was tap in a final 6-inch putt to seal Central Cambria's first District 6 golf championship in the first-ever team playoff in District 6 history.
Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich
Central Cambria’s Max Kirsch hits onto the green on No. 7 Wednesday during the District 6 Championships at Scotch Valley Country Club.
"It meant a lot that I was the one who got to tap in that final putt," Maruca said. "This is my fourth year here at districts, and to seal the deal for the team meant a lot."
Maruca's teammate, Max Kirsch, added to Central Cambria's trophy case by winning the individual championship after shooting a final-round 75. Over the two-day tournament, Kirsch shot a 147 and topped runner-up Brady Moran of Richland by three strokes.
"This was the best golf I've played all year," Kirsch said. "When you're three shots up going into the final day, and the people in your top group aren't playing really well, it helps take the pressure off."
Kirsch's final round
A look at District 6 champion, Central Cambria's Max Kirsch's final round.
Score3-over par 75
Kirsch and the rest of the Red Devils, along with Tyrone's Gregory Ferguson who qualified as the third-place finisher, will compete in the PIAA Western Regionals in Blairsville at Tom's Run at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Kirsch's top competition entering the day was Mifflin County's Jeremy Koller, but Koller shot a 4-over par 41 on the first nine holes Wednesday while Kirsch shot a 1-under 36. Kirsch's lead with nine holes to go was six over Central Mountain's Matt Spooner, but Spooner shot an 8-over 43 on the back nine and did not qualify for regionals.
Moran birdied six holes on the day but hit into the water while making a triple bogey on the par-4 sixth hole.
After playing a solid front nine, Kirsch faced some adversity on the back nine, making bogey on both the 10th and 11th holes before finding himself in the sand trap on the par-3 12th. Kirsch, however, was able to chip out 6 feet from the hole and connected on the par putt.
"That was a big putt," Kirsch said. "That was a big up and down. I knew I had to make a par there to get back on track, and that was big."
Kirsch, a junior, played the next three holes at 1-under par before cruising to the title.
"Max played very well," Central Cambria coach Tom Aurandt said. "Today conditions were very rough with all the rain, but he rose to the challenge and played very well."
While Kirsch had a relatively smooth ride to the championship, his team had to sweat it out.
Entering the day with a five-stroke lead over Hollidaysburg and a six-stroke advantage over State College, the Red Devils found themselves tied with the Little Lions after two rounds.
Tournament director Dean Rossi said that in all the years he's been involved with the District 6 boys' golf championship, the team competition has never ended in a tie.
After a short discussion, it was decided the top four players from both Central Cambria and State College would compete in a playoff on the 10th hole with each player's score on the hole counting toward a team score.
Central Cambria won the competition from the tee box.
Kirsch, Sam Stevens, Maruca and Zac Woodley all hit relatively safe drives for the Red Devils while State College's Garrett Bastardi's drive hit some rocks and ricocheted into a pond, and Brian Charles was forced to chip out from behind a tree. Both Little Lions recorded a double bogey on the hole as Central Cambria won, 18-21.
"It was very intense, but it was a full-team effort, and I'm so proud of the guys," Aurandt said. "They worked hard all year, and the hard work has paid off."
Key: CC-Central Cambria; R-Richland; MC-Mifflin County; CM-Central Mountain; SC-State College; BA-Bellwood-Antis; H-Hollidaysburg; T-Tyrone; WH-Westmont Hilltop; HC-Homer Center; BC-Bishop Carroll; BM-Bishop McCort; A-Altoona; Ha.-Harmony; CK-Claysburg-Kimmel.
INDIVIDUAL COMPETITION (Top six advance): 1, M. Kirsch, CC, 72-75-147; 2, Moran, R, 77-73-150; 3, Ferguson, T, 79-75-154; 4, Koller, MC, 75-79-154; 5, Lennon, WH, 80-74-154; 6, Peterson, SC, 78-78-156; 7, Spooner, CM, 77-80-157; 8, Gates, SC, 81-79-160; 9, Wood, H, 79-82-161; 10, J. Kirsch, H, 84-80-164; 11, Brown, CK, 86-79-165; T-12, Illig, HC, 81-85-166; T-12, Maruca, CC, 85-81-166; T-14, Pearson, BA, 78-89-167; T-14, Bastardi, SC, 86-81-167; 16, Robbins, H, 79-90-169; T-17, Stevens, CC, 80-91-171; T-17, Piskarich, BM, 84-87-171; T-17, Wyland, A, 85-86-171; T-17, Tiesi, Ha., 85-86-171; 21, Knode, MC, 83-92-175; 22, Vasilko, BC, 83-97-180.
TEAM COMPETITION (Top team advances): 1, Central Cambria 326-329-655; 2, State College 332-323-655; T-3, Hollidaysburg 331-337-668; T-3, Mifflin County 334-334-668; 5, Richland 362-336-698; 6, Ligonier Valley 371-358-729.
TEAM PLAYOFF SCORES: Central Cambria: M. Kirsch 5; Maruca 4; Stevens 4; Woodley 5. Total-18. State College: Gates 5, Bastardi 6, Peterson 4, Charles 6. Total-21.