YORK – Early in his second and final round at states Cole Miller was on a pace that might have won him a state golf title.
Double-bogeys on holes nine and 12, and bogeys on 10, 13 and 14 put him at six-over par for the day and seven-over for the tournament. But the Northwestern junior didn't give up on the round. He finished with a pair of birdies to card a four-over par 75, giving him a 147 (72-75) over two days at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York and a second-place PIAA medal.
"[Tuesday] was a bit of a rough day, a little disappointment," Miller said. "I got off to a pretty hot start. I was two under after three holes again with a lucky putt on No. 3 that dropped from like 70 feet. I sort of faded pretty quickly. I started to three-putt from spots that really weren't that tough.
"I picked it up a little bit at the end. That felt good to finish birdie-birdie."
Miller tied Leechburg's Matt Barto for second place, two strokes behind Class AA champ Isaiah Logue of Fairfield.
Miller's Northwestern teammate Nick Vecellio also competed at states, shooting 167 (83-84) to tie for 25th place.
Miller was tied for the lead after his shooting one-over par on Monday. He birdied his first and third holes on Tuesday to get to two-under par for the day. Bogeys on six and eight got him back to even par.
His birdie putt on the final hole tied him for the lowest score in his group, but one group ahead Logue had already posted at 165, three-over par for the tournament.
Miller expressed pride in finishing second in the state, but the competitor in him couldn't help thinking of how close he came to state gold.
"You work so hard for that first place," he said. "The hours you put in on the range, you want to see it pay off it in the big way, with the first place medal, not second place or third place."
Miller caps a stellar junior season in which he won the Colonial League title, placed second via a playoff at districts and posted a sub-70 average for the season.
"I think it was a pretty great season," he said. "For both Nick and I to qualify for states was huge. To have a teammate here makes the experience that much better. And number two in the state is pretty huge."
Vecellio, who was tied for 24th place after Monday's round, also got off to a good start on Tuesday. He made four pars and a birdie on his first five holes and finished his first nine (played on the course's back nine) with a two-over par 37. A double- and triple-bogey late in his second nine on Tuesday led to a 47 and a final-round 84.
"I just had one good nine and one bad nine," said Vecellio. "I was just inconsistent both days here.
"I got off to a really good start [Monday] but fell apart midway through the round. I just had three bad holes that kind of put me out of the tournament. [Tuesday] on the back nine I just kind of fell apart too."
Vecellio, a junior who finished fourth at districts and fifth at leagues this year, was making his first appearance at states. Getting there was his primary goal for the season and he was happy to have achieved it. He also knows he can compete with the top players in the state and was disappointed it didn't happen Monday and Tuesday.
"It's great to be here," he said. "Getting here was the goal, but I really wanted to play well and get top 10."
Miller and Vecellio both earn exemptions into next year's district championship based on making it to states this year. The experience they gained in York the past two days will be invaluable if they can make it back next season.
"I can't wait to come back just because I know the course," Vecellio said. "The greens are pretty tricky here. It's good to know where to miss and where the pins are going to be.
"I want to prove to myself that I'm good enough to be here and good enough to compete with these players."
Manheim Township's Craig Hornberer won this year's Class AAA state title with a one-over par 143 (70-73) over two days.
Erica Herr won the Class AAA girls tournament, shooting four-under par 140 (68-72) to win by seven strokes. Villa Maria's Cara Basso won the Class AA girls title by 10 strokes, shooting six-over par 150 (78-72).