The Abington Heights golf team has gotten off to a hot start.
Troy Kelleher, a junior for the Comets, is absolutely torrid at this point in the season.
Kelleher captured the title at the area’s most important and most prestigious tournament for area high school players, the Irving Jackman Memorial.
It was not even close, as the junior ripped off a run of six birdies in eight holes, dominating the rest of the field to win by five shots at Scranton Municipal Golf Course last month.
His two-under-par 70 made him the lone player to break par for the day, but more impressive were his birdies on the eighth, ninth, 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th holes that made that enabled him to take command of the event.
He received some tremendous help when Wallenpaupack’s Alex Pillar and Scranton Prep’s Jack Habeeb unknowingly hit the other’s ball for their second shots of the day, causing both to receive a two-stroke penalty and put them in chase mode. Pillar placed second after a 75 while Habeeb ended up sixth with his 78.
That cushion came in handy for Kelleher, who was angry with himself after three-putting the sixth hole to go over-par for the round.
“I knew I had to improve my putting at some point,” the junior said. “For the last couple of holes on the front nine, I guess, the putting came back to me.
“It kind of woke me up.”
The other parts of his game were falling into place, and the rest of the field was in trouble.
Finally, Kelleher got the boost he needed right before making the turn at the ninth hole, a short par-4.
“I hit a good wedge shot into 9 for my approach shot, and I think that got me going,” Kelleher said. “The driver was on the whole day, but my putting was not good at all.”
With his birdies at the eighth and ninth holes, Kelleher was starting to gather momentum, and he wanted to make sure he would be the golfer to take command.
“There wasn’t just any shot that stuck out to me, but anytime you play that course, you know you are going to need your short game to post a low number,” Kelleher said. “Just a drive, chip and putt.”
He did it enough times to build the monstrous lead, which covered him when he ran into trouble in the final three holes, when bogeys at the difficult 16th and the par-3 17th pushed Kelleher closer to the field, but his advantage after 15 holes ensured his victory.
Perhaps the next biggest story that day was the play of the entire Comets lineup. Connor Kelleher tied for fourth with a 5-over 77 to place second in the low junior field, behind only Pillar.
Will Brown shared the low score in the low sophomore field as one of three sophomores with 78s.
Nick Sebastianelli’s 82 gave the Comets a team score of 307 as the fourth best score for Abington Heights.
Andrew Kirtley and Dan Flickinger each posted 84s to tie for 20th place.
“I knew I had it in me, but I knew the competition was going to be good, and it was,” Kelleher said. “I guess I was hoping to have a good day.”
It certainly was a great day for the Abington Heights golf program, which has had its fair share of success on the links over the years.