Altoona enjoys feel-good finish

By Michael Boytim

HOLLIDAYSBURG – Altoona’s high school golf team faced some long odds before the season, and junior Derek McAlkich was up against a long uphill climb himself Thursday during the second day of the District 6 Class 3A championships at Scotch Valley Country Club.

Both the team and McAlkich finished the day with gold medals around their necks.

McAlkich overcame a six-stroke first-round deficit to claim Altoona’s first individual district championship since Erick Kozak became coach in 2003, and the Mountain Lions roared past State College, 659-702, to claim their second consecutive team title.

Though Altoona came in as the defending champions, it was forced to replace four of its five starters from last year’s championship team.

“It’s great that we got a group of kids that put the time and effort in,” Kozak said. “We came together at the end of the season. It’s pretty much a whole different cast of kids from last year to this year. We had four great kids graduate.

“That’s pretty rewarding when you can repeat after we lost all those great kids.”

McAlkich was one of those new starters and shot a second-round 78 after opening with an 80. Central Mountain’s Matt Storeman shot an 86 Thursday to slip into second place.

“Derek is a real good player,” Kozak said. “He’s got all the shots. I told him to gut it out and play his best, because you never know what’s going to happen. Unfortunately, the young man from Central Mountain didn’t have his best day, and Derek was able to play well and take advantage.”

A good morning warm-up was key for McAlkich.

“Yesterday I didn’t play too well of a round,” McAlkich said. “Today, I was confident from hitting at the range before and had confidence in my irons.

“I practiced all summer and played every day to get to this point.”

Altoona will play the District 5-9-8-10 champion at Treasure Lake in DuBois on Oct. 12 in the PIAA sub-regionals, and McAlkich will play in the PIAA Western Regional at Tom’s Run in Blairsville Oct. 16.

Ferguson wins 2A

Winning a District 6 Class 2A championship was never a goal for Tyrone’s Andrew Ferguson.

He has always wanted to win two.

Ferguson got halfway there Thursday with a three-stroke victory over Saint Joseph’s Jack Mangene. Ferguson’s oldest brother, Jimmy, won district titles as a sophomore and a senior.

“It means everything,” Andrew Ferguson said. “I think about him winning districts two years, and it’s kind of what has been my motivation. I want to get two like he did, so hopefully next year I’ll be able to match him.”

Ferguson, who finished as the runner-up last year as a sophomore, entered the day leading Mangene by just one stroke and slipped into a tie with him after deciding to try and play a ball out of the hazard on the sixth hole.

“I saw it sitting up, and I figured I could muscle it out of there just fine,” Andrew Ferguson said. “That didn’t happen. I wasn’t too happy, but I was able to get it out the next shot and just plugged away after that.”

One hole later, Mangene found himself in a hazard and opted to drop his ball more than 50 yards back of where it entered so he could clear a group of trees. He made double bogey on the hole and was visibly frustrated. It carried over onto the next hole when he made double bogey again, stretching Ferguson’s lead to three.

“Keeping their composure is a strength of all three of the boys (Andrew, Jimmy and Gregory),” said Greg Ferguson, Tyrone’s golf coach and Andrew’s father. “I was brought up to play that way, and we bought our boys up to play the same way. It’s a strength. If you show frustration, your opponent feels like he may be able to get to you.

“You’re going to make mistakes. You have to play and act like a champion, and he does that. It’s important. It will save you a couple shots, and that could have been the difference today.”

Ferguson stretched his lead to as many as five over Mangene, but the Saint Joseph’s golfer pulled back within three when Ferguson made a double bogey on No. 12.

Mangene and Ferguson both hit their drives on No. 13 underneath the same pine tree. Ferguson pitched his out onto the green and made birdie. Mangene couldn’t punch his out and made bogey.

“I had my 58 degree wedge, and I was going to hit that and hope it missed the pine tree,” Andrew Ferguson said. “Instead, I used my imagination a little bit and tried to punch a pitching wedge into the hill and have it bounce up somewhere near the pin.”

Ferguson and Central Cambria’s Alex Kiepert, who finished tied for fifth, will also be playing in the PIAA Western Regional at Tom’s Run on Oct. 16.

It will be Kiepert’s third time playing in the tournament as an individual, and he went to states with Central Cambria as a freshman.

“I definitely did not have my best stuff here,” Kiepert said. “I know I can play better at Tom’s Run. The first hole didn’t go the way I wanted today, so I knew I had to keep grinding to advance. Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go in the hole. That’s just the way golf can be.”

Tournament notes: Saint Joseph’s won the 2A team title, 675-685, over Bishop McCort. … Altoona’s Nic Urchick (third) and Ethan Katcher (fourth) were awarded medals for their individual finishes despite not advancing to regionals. … Another Altoona player, freshman Scotty Lawhead, qualified as an individual for districts but was cut on the first day. He just started to play golf this past summer.

“Scotty didn’t know if he was a football player or a golfer,” Kozak said. “He wasn’t a serious golfer before this year. This summer he made a decision and worked really hard. Through qualifying he was like our No. 8 kid, but as the season went on, he got better and better. Looking forward to the future, he’s got the opportunity to help us come back and continue to reload.”


TEAM RESULTS (TOP TEAM ADVANCES): 1, Saint Joseph’s (SJ) 675; 2, Bishop McCort (BM) 685; 3, Central Cambria (CC), 736; 4, Northern Cambria (NC) 740.

INDIVIDUALS (TOP EIGHT ADVANCE): 1, Ferguson, Tyrone, 151; 2, Mangene, SJ, 154; 3, Heffelfinger, Mount Union, 158; 4, Tercek, BM, 160; T-5, Kiepert, CC, 162; T-5, Moran, Richland, 162; 7, Petrosky, BM, 164; 8, Kush, Westmont Hilltop, 167; 9, Steyers, SJ, 168, 10, Pershing, NC, 169; 11, McCaulley, Bellwood-Antis, 170; 12, Ramach, BM, 172; 13, Lumley, Richland, 173; 14, Ober, Homer-Center, 174; 15, Labriola, Bishop Guilfoyle, 175; 16, Krug, NC, 178; T-17, Marsh, SJ, 179; T-17, Walwro, CC, 179; 19, Singer, Philipsburg-Osceola, 180; 20, Schafer, Westmont Hilltop, 188.


TEAM RESULTS (TOP TEAM ADVANCES): 1, Altoona (A) 659: McAlkich 80-78, Urchick 87-81, Tilson 83-83, Katcher 87-85, McDermitt 83-84; 2, State College (SC) 702; 3, Central Mountain (CM) 718.

INDIVIDUALS (TOP TWO ADVANCE): 1, McAlkich, A, 158; 2, Storeman, CM, 160; 3, Urchick, A, 168; 4, Katcher, A, 172; 5, Battista, SC, 173; 6, Weader, Mifflin County, 182; 7, Tomczuk, SC, 183.

2A final grouping

How 2A leaders fared in Thursday’s final round

PLAYER Birdies Pars Bogeys Double Bogeys Putts Fairways hit

Ferguson 3 9 2 4 37 9

Mangene 2 9 3 4 34 8

Tercek 0 6 10 2 38 7

Moran 0 6 11 1 35 6

Note: Ferguson, Tercek and Moran all hit one green on the par 3s, and Ferguson and Mangene each had two putts for eagle during the round.