South Xtra: Upper St. Clair posting amazing numbers on course

BOYS GOLF

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The score seemed to be a misprint.

In Upper St. Clair's match against Chartiers Valley Aug. 22 at St. Clair Country Club, the recorded score of Panthers senior Thomas Steve was a 6-under 28 for nine holes.

But it was no mistake. In fact, Steve could have gone lower.

"He lipped out a putt on No. 8, otherwise he would have had a 27," USC coach Todd Flynn said. "Regardless of the course, to shoot 6 under over nine holes is incredible."

Steve, who finished third in the WPIAL last season and recently committed to Notre Dame, is one of five seniors in the starting lineup for an Upper St. Clair team that has WPIAL title aspirations.

"Our goal is to win the WPIAL and get back to states," Steve said.

The Panthers took first in the district in 2011, with current seniors Steve, Corey Wilding, Patrick McDonnell and Grant Engel in the starting lineup.

Last season, however, the team finished fourth in the semifinal round, with the top three teams advancing to the semifinals.

"On that day, not one person but the whole team had a bad day," Flynn said. "But I told them it was a learning experience. I said, 'In your life, you'll never forget this day. Learn from it.'

"As is the case in most sports, golf prepares you for life."

Flynn has coached the Panthers for 22 years and USC has won 11 WPIAL titles over that span. He has the talent with his senior class to win another this year. But he is more excited about what his team is like off the course. The Panthers have found a way to help those in need with their skills on the course.

"This is a unique group of kids," Flynn said.

In 2011, then-senior golfer Tim Novic started raising money for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh through the Birdie for a Cause program. Those willing could make a one-time donation, or could donate a certain amount of money for each birdie Novic made throughout the season.

After Novic's graduation, the entire Upper St. Clair team vowed to keep up the tradition.

"In my 22 years of coaching, I'm most proud of this," Flynn said.

Flynn said the Panthers raised $3,400 in the program last season and are looking to double that this season.

Buoyed by his 6-under round, Steve had 12 birdies through the first four matches. He said the program makes shooting a good round feel even better.

"It makes every birdie better than just a birdie," Steve said.

So whether the Panthers reach their goals this season on the course or not, they are winners off it.

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