In this file photo from late June, Hickory’s McKenzie Gustas tees off during the 73rd annual Herald-Tam O’Shanter Junior Golf Tournament at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Hermitage.

Hickory High girls’ golf program has blossomed into one of PIAA’s best and most proud – regardless of gender or sport. A 2021 District 10 title could validate the Hornets, and that could be fulfilled today.

Coach Craig Antush and Hickory head to The Country Club of Meadville for the annual D-10 Championships, which commences with a 10 a.m. shotgun start.

“This year’s team has accomplished quite a bit, but winning the D-10 team title will still require smart play for 18 holes and executing the proper strategies so strokes aren’t lost,” Antush assessed.

Hickory has won 11 consecutive crowns during regular-season region mega-match play. and as recently as Tuesday – in a prelude to today’s championships – the Hornets harvested The Meadville Invitational team title. Hickory edged its D-10 rival North East, 224-227.

Reigning D-10 champion North East etched the top 2 individual scores from sisters Lydia and Anna Swan, who shot 65 (women’s course record) and 71, respectively, for the Lady Grapepickers. Lydia is a senior; Anna, a sophomore.

Hickory was led by McKenzie Gustas, 73; Luciana Masters, 75; Sasha Petrochko, 76; Ava Liburdi, 82 (not 92 as reported in Wednesday’s edition), and Megan Bull, 110.

“After our match (Tues)day at Meadville, McKenzie spoke to the others about how she was 4-over after four holes, but recovered to finish 1-over for the round,” Antush related. “Also (Tues)day, Sasha (a sophomore) showed again why she is not deterred by a bad ball placement by chipping in her fifth shot from 20 feet to save par on the par-5 number nine.

“Then there’s Ava Liburdi (a sophomore) and Luciana Masters (a freshman),who always make people wonder if they are playing good or poorly,” Antush said regarding those players’ placid demeanor. “Nothing fazes them, and their scores have reflected the consistency of their improved scores. Senior Megan Bull has been the greatest transformation of any golfer I’ve had in my 15 years,” Antush praised. “She has taken advantage of every opportunity these past two seasons and her results have proven so.

“As Lydia Aiuppi, Ava Miklos, Madeline Myers, and Vianna Miller wait for their chance, the future continues to look very promising, but none of the girls can remain satisfied if they want to succeed at the state level and – hopefully – beyond,” Antush added.

Today’s pairings are listed on the District 10 web site. Area aficionados will note the No. 10A quartet – Lydia Swan, Gustas, Grove City’s Emily Donahue (who shot a 76 at Tuesday’s invite), and McDowell’s Annamarie Zinram, and teeing off at No. 10B is the foursome of Anna Swan, Petrochko, Wilmington’s Kaitlyn Hoover and Mercyhurst Prep’s Katie Caryl.

Earlier this summer Gustas garnered The Herald-Tamie tournament title. She is now a senior set on leaving her links legacy at Hickory.

“I have had some very good teams over the years,” Antush reflected, “but this year’s team has been extremely consistent. Each girl has exhibited a strong commitment to the team and a discipline that has allowed them to make progress.

“Each girl understands the meaning that we play 18 holes!! It’s very easy to get distracted after a bad shot or missed putt, but no matter the result, it becomes an immediate memory. There’s no time available to dwell on it,” Antush concluded.

Notes: Other Mercer Countians include Reynolds’ Anna Harpst, Alison Litwiler and McKenzie Herman; Sharpsville’s Stacia Fennell; Grove City’s Haley Weber and Hannah Hohman, and Lakeview’s Lydia Heckman.

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