Sports Town will review the 2011-12 school year during July. Today we will revisit the golf season.
If anyone believed that what Garrett Browning accomplished in 2009 when he won the PIAA boys golf championship as a sophomore was a fluke, all doubts about his ability on the course and the way he approaches the game were put to rest at the 2011 PIAA Championships.
It didn't appear that Browning might enter the elite company of multiple state champions as he finished in a sixth-place tie with Peters Township junior Trent McPherson at the WPIAL Division I boys championship with a three-over-par round of 75, four strokes behind the 1-under-par round of 71 fired by Baldwin freshman Zach Taylor.
Browning, however, showed that his best golf was ahead of him even when he finished in a four-way tie for 16th place with a six-over-par round of 78, six strokes behind the even-par effort of 72 recorded by Peters Township junior Tommy Nettles.
If anything, Browning was even more determined. Especially when the state championship came down to an individual showdown between Browning and Nettles.
Browning led by one stroke after the first day, but he knew that Nettles would be a worthy opponent, and he showed that on the first hole of the tournament's final day.
"It turned into match play between me and Tommy," Browning said. "He made a 20-foot putt for birdie on the first hole, and I did expect him to play well. Both of us played well for most of the day, and I knew it was going to be close."
Nettles parred the eighth hole to tie the match, and both competitors had scores of 108 heading into the tournament's final nine holes.
Both parred the par-four 10th hole, and the tournament turned Browning's way on the next two holes.
He parred the next two holes -- the par-5 11th and par-3 12th -- while Nettles had a double-bogey on the 11th and a bogey on the 12th. Nettles got back to within one stroke on the next two holes, but Browning's birdie on the par-3 15th hole and Nettles bogey on the same hole restored a three-stroke lead for Browning.
Both competitors bogeyed the 15th hole, and Nettles parred both the 17th and 18th holes while Browning had bogeys on both finishing holes. But Browning had just enough of a cushion to secure a one-stroke victory with a 36-hole total of 146. Nettles was one stroke behind at 147.
The title resonated with Browning, who never was close in the Western Regional that Nettles had won a week earlier.
"No one knows who won the Western regional, but everyone knows who wins a state title," he said. "Heritage Hills (the state championship venue in York) sets up nicely for my game. Of the 36 holes, I hit 29 greens in regulation. I had a lot of chances for birdie putts."
On the final day, Browning recorded 12 pars, five bogeys and one birdie. Nettles had nine pars, three birdies, four bogeys and two double-bogeys. All of which meant that Browning one the title by one stroke.
"I had a lot of pars," he said. "I was consistent."
Browning was the only Indian to compete individually in the postseason for the Indians. He and his teammates did compete in the WPIAL team championship, but the Indians finished a distant sixth with 436 strokes behind the winning effort of 383 posted by Upper St. Clair.
"I hope (playing in the WPIAL championship) brings attention to the team along with Garrett's two state chamionships," said West Allegheny coach Dave Botizan. "I hope (his title) gives our team some confidence and improves their work ethic. I'm hoping some of our players will believe that while they may not be as good as Garrett right now, they could put themselves in that position. I'm hoping that his success rubs off and that his good attitude will rub off on the program."