PIAA creates two classes
Bob Ford/TIMES NEWS Northwestern's Cole Miller competes in the postseason last year. This year the PIAA has divided golf into two classifications - AA and AAA.
Over the years, whenever the District 11 golf championships rolled around it was a single class, free-for-all battle on the links.
In the past all of the high school golfers competing in the championship were forced to play against golfers from all across the district regardless of classification.
Now, for the first time ever, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association has decided to split the field throughout district, regional and state play.
Once the playoffs come around in October, there will be a AA classification (schools with the enrollment of under 293 students) and a AAA classification (schools with more than 294 students).
Of the eight local TIMES NEWS programs involved, Marian, Northwestern, Palmerton, Tamaqua and Weatherly will be involved in the AA tournament. Jim Thorpe, Lehighton and Pleasant Valley will compete in the AAA class.
The move will create a sense of equality for several schools involved, especially for smaller schools such as Marian.
For the last 16 years, Marian head coach Len Brylewski watched past Colt alumni like Nick Tristani and Danny Lessig go from battling the courses with some of the big boys in the Schuylkill County straight to facing the brunt of the storm against some of the premier golfers throughout the Lehigh Valley at districts.
For the first time in his coaching career, the Colts' mentor is glad to see a change in the format. After taking part in the giant pool of competitive golfers a year ago, Mark Gottstein, who finished 22nd, and Josh Green, who finished 36th, will now have a better chance of moving on in the field towards a potential medal.
"As a small school, we really don't have much of a chance with these other big schools," Brylewski said. "You just didn't have a chance over the years. It's a good move for us this season. I'm elated about it."
After facing the likes of bigger schools like Parkland, Emmaus and Northampton from the Lehigh Valley and Blue Mountain and Pottsville from the Schuylkill area over the years, Brylewski stated that it will help lighten the pressure on his Colts once they step on the competitive greens in two months. Plus, it should help some of the other area golfers make a name for themselves with consistent play against players from schools more their size.
"It's going to make a big difference in their play," Brylewski said. "It will help guys like Mike Gottstein. This guy has the ability to shoot consistently in the low 70s consistently. Josh Green, he can shoot anywhere from 76 to 82. Eric Mason, about the same. Mark Postupack, he can play anywhere from 74 to 80.
"So, when you field four guys out of six like that at all these big schools, it's tough for them to beat you. But, it's a big plus for these guys because now they're going to be on the small school level with the other guys once districts rolls around."
Not only will it better the chances for guys like last year's district champion Northwestern's Cole Miller, teammate Nick Vecellio (39th), Gottstein and Green of grabbing a possible district medal, but it may help their chances of moving on to the regional tournament as well. In 2011, only ten boys and five girls from District 11 qualified for Regionals.
A year ago, Palmerton graduate Ben Andrews and Miller were the lone local TN individuals to qualify for the regional tournament. Andrew was the lone local to qualify for states in 2010, while Miller was the lone local to further his season into the state playoffs.
With the move however, a sense of familiarity with the competition may benefit local golfers, according to Palmerton head coach David Lavin. After not knowing the capability of those involved like in year's past, Lavin stressed entering the tournament against familiar faces will help better the chances for advancement down the road.
"It's going to reflect on who we play against during the regular season," Lavin said. "In postseasons of the past, we were seeing guys who we have never played against before. Now, we'll be playing against golfers who we possibly saw during the regular season. It's going to be a continuation of the regular season.
"It will reflect on the same competition that we may have seen during the regular season. So, we will be familiar with the majority of the individuals we may be seeing during the postseason."