There is an old sign just outside Latrobe, Pennsylvania, the hometown of the late, great Arnold Palmer that quotes the golfer: “You must play boldly to win.”
Trinity’s James Ulsh, a junior, took that to heart at the 87th PIAA golf championships at Heritage Hills in York on Oct. 19 – a beautiful autumn day with enough breeze to make players judge its effect.
This year’s championship was only 18 holes, not the usual 36 hole, two-day tournament, so getting off to a good start was doubly important, given that Heritage Hills’ easier holes on the front nine and back nine are birdie holes. It’s the finish at the 30-year-old course that arguably is the most challenging of any championship golf course in southern Pennsylvania.
Ulsh, who placed second in the District 3 tournament a week earlier, began his round with three straight bogeys, unable to find the fairway with his driver. And 5-over par after nine holes was not anywhere near contention in the Class AA side of the bracket. But a great wedge shot from 68 yards on hole 13, followed by a 45-foot cross country birdie putt on 14 suddenly changed his standing.
What he did on the finishing holes was a testament to his mettle. On the par-3 15th, he striped a 5-iron to 20 feet into the October breeze for a solid par; he then busted a drive on the claustrophobic 16th, before ripping a drive around the corner on the 17th to set up another easy par. Perhaps his best shot of the day was his 310-yard drive on the 18th that split the fairway perfectly. Given last year, he made two doubles on that 470-yard par-4, it was a hurdle nicely cleared, capping off a superlative back nine 33 and a 74 to capture the bronze medal with an impressively bold style of play.
“You have to know to take a certain amount of risk, but at the same time, doubles are another thing that kills you,” Ulsh said. “I didn’t have any doubles, which saved my score and kind of kept me going.”
Trinity teammate Olivia Maddux, a senior and captain of the Trinity golf team, finished in 17th place to cap off a successful four-year, rock solid career that included several top-5 District 3 medal finishes along with three PIAA state championship appearances.
By Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness