BY JEFF FALK
FLEETWOOD – You can make a bad shot. But you can’t make two.
You can miss a putt. But you can’t miss a short one.
You can make a mental mistake. But you must learn from it.
You can get into trouble. But you can’t compound it.
On a bright Monday morning at the 6,648-yard, par-72 Golden Oaks Golf Club, during the 18-hole PIAA East Regional tournament, Northern Lebanon’s Luke Spanger scrambled his way to states. Spangler carded a six-over par score of 78 to qualify for next week’s PIAA Class AA championships.
Spangler’s round of two birdies, eight pars and eight bogeys put him in ninth place among Class AA competitors and qualified him for states by three shots. The Viking junior finished five shots behind medalist Thomas Lynch of Scranton Prep, who registered a one-over par score of 73.
Annville-Cleona sophomore Simon Domencic posted an 86 and missed quaifying for states by five shots.
Spangler, the reigning Lebanon County champion, is believed to be the first Lebanon County scholastic golfer to qualify for states in more than 15 years. He is also believed to be the first Northern Lebanon student-athlete to make it to the PIAA Golf Championships since the late 1980s.
This year’s PIAA Class AA Championships will be contested at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York on October 21-22.
“I’m really happy,” said Spangler, who didn’t even qualify for the District Three tournament as a sophomore. “States is the final step. It’s like the end of the line. After districts (October 4-5 at Briarwood Golf Course in York), I thought it might be possible, especially after I saw the scores from last year. Before that, I didn’t even think about it.
“If you would’ve told me at the beginning of the season, I probably would’ve thought it was tough to do,” added Spangler. “I knew I could do it. It’s about going out and performing.”
Spangler solidified his standing for the state tournament with a short birdie putt on his last hole of the day, the 496-yard, par-five 11th. But it may have been his ability to control damage – especially at the 173-yard, par-three ninth and the 389-yard par-four seventh – that got him in position to go.
“I was trying to play the best I can, not just make it,” said Spangler. “I scrambled a bunch today. I had a bunch of shots under trees, and a lot of punch shots. I also had some good sand shots.
“I try and keep everything at a bogey,” added Spangler. “I try to eliminate bogeys and higher, and I try to eliminate three putts. I know if I don’t three-putt and don’t go over a double bogey, I’m going to play well.”
When Spangler rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt at the 394-yard, par-four 14th – the third hole of his round – he was still even with par. He parred five holes in-a-row – Numbers Two through Six – to keep his round at four-over par.
“I think I just got good at it this year,” said Spangler. “I wasn’t good at scrambling last year. It was just playing rounds over the summer, getting in trouble and getting out of trouble.
“This is the farthest I’ve ever gone in golf,” Spangler continued. “I’m really excited to be a junior and get this far. I’m looking forward to states. Getting there is monumental.”
Domencic was probably a little closer to making it to states than his final score might indicate.
His 86 included an 11 at the 347-yard, par-four third hole. That score was seven-over par itself, while Domencic went a combined seven-over par on his 17 other holes.
“It was one tee-shot, and I kept piling it on,” said Domencic of the three tee shots he hit out of bounds at Number Three. “I’m really happy about how I didn’t just throw in the towel. I regrouped and played pretty well. Right after that hole, I made a ten-footer to save par. I thought I was hitting good shots. I tried to get past it.
“I was looking to shoot in the 70s,” continued Domencic. “I thought if I did that, I had a good chance of making it to states. I was coming off a 76 at the second day of disticts. I was looking forward to this tournament. I was excited about it.”
Domencic carded a double bogey on his opening hole, the par-four 12th, then proceeded to rattle off seven straight pars. His round was at three-over par when he stood on Number Three’s tee.
“Me and my coach were talking about it,” said Domencic, who is also an accomplished soccer and basketball player at Annville-Cleona. “If I could get 12 pars and six bogeys, that’s a 78. My goal was three-over par after nine holes, and then go from there. If I could go three-over par on each nine, that would be good. Seventy-eight was probably my target goal.
“Golf is my favorite sport, but it wasn’t always that way,” continued Domencic. “That probably happened a couple of years ago. Last summer I won a tournament or two. I kept getting excited about it. I kept competing. I kept practicing more and kept playing more.”
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PIAA East Regional
(at 6,648-yard, par-72 Golden Oaks Golf Club)
Class AA Results
|1||Thomas LynchScranton Prep, 10||+1||73||Medalist|
|2||Austin OutmanCowanesque Valley, 12||+2||74||Qualified|
|T3||Gavin BaerLancaster Mennonite, 12||+4||76||Qualified|
|T3||Paul BradyPope John Paul II, 10||+4||76||Qualified|
|T3||James UlshTrinity, 10||+4||76||Qualified|
|T6||Elijah RuppertBrandywine Heights, 11||+5||77||Qualified|
|T6||Josiah NisslyPequea Valley, 12||+5||77||Qualified|
|T6||MJ StivalaScranton Prep, 12||+5||77||Qualified|
|T9||Luke SpanglerNorthern Lebanon, 11||+6||78||Qualified|
|T9||Ryan McCabeDevon Prep, 11||+6||78||Qualified|
|T9||Bobby LugianoLake-Lehman, 12||+6||78||Qualified|
|T9||Ty MorralWellsboro, 12||+6||78||Qualified|
|T13||Ben OrtweinNotre Dame Green Pond, 10||+9||81||Qualified|
|T13||Tyler HagerPalmerton, 9||+9||81||Qualified|
|The following players did not qualify|
|CUT||Brett StrongScranton Prep, 10||+10||82|
|CUT||Josheph ProphetaWellsboro, 12||+10||82|
|CUT||Caleb ReathJames Buchanan||+10||82|
|CUT||Russ McPaulYork Catholic, 12||+11||83|
|CUT||Martin CryanHoly Redeemer, 12||+11||83|
|CUT||Albe EvansSchuylkill Haven, 12||+11||83|
|CUT||Evan MenzNew Hope Solebury, 11||+12||84|
|CUT||Peyton MussinaMontoursville, 11||+13||85|
|CUT||Simon DomencicAnnville-Cleona, 10||+14||86|
|CUT||Jeremy CallahanWyoming Seminary, 12||+14||86|
|CUT||Joel HeckCowanesque Valley, 11||+14||86|
|CUT||Coleman MillerDevon Prep, 11||+15||87|
|CUT||Logan KresgePalmerton, 12||+16||88|
|CUT||Caden MutchlerDanville, 12||+17||89|