Ella McRoberts doesn’t wear a heart-rate monitor when she golfs because the Peters Township junior has a natural rhythm for the game.
“I just like to stay calm and keep my heart-rate level. Don’t get too high whenever I hit a good shot well or too low when I hit a bad shot,” McRoberts said.
During the WPIAL Class AAA girls championships Wednesday at Diamond Run in Sewickley, McRoberts didn’t hit too many bad shots. In fact, she converted enough great shots to claim the bronze medal.
McRoberts finished third with a 7-over-par 79 behind Isabella Walker and Nina Busch. The North Allegheny senior and Fox Chapel sophomore finished tied in regulation with scores of 76. Walker won the title after a one-hole playoff.
McRoberts credited her even-keel play for her success. She zeroed in on her objective of earning a berth in the PIAA Western Regional set for Oct. 15 at Tom’s Run that she didn’t blink when she scored an eagle on No. 9 to briefly hold the lead.
“I know if (my heart) is steady, I have more focus and that corresponds with how I play,” she said. “If I have blinders on, then I take it one shot at a time.”
McRoberts said the eagle was critical to her success in the second half of the match, as all competitors shot 40 or more on the back nine.
“I knew going into No. 9 I was plus-2 and it was a pretty short downhill par 5, so I knew I had a pretty good chance of making eagle. When I hit my 6-iron, I knew it was going to go on and when I made the putt for eagle, I knew I was even through nine. That was key going into the back nine.”
Throughout the match, McRoberts relied on her driver and putting.
“It was really my driver. I got it in play pretty often off the tee and then I made some clutch putts for par,” she said. “I had three good up and downs and that was what really saved me.”
Now she is saving her best for the PIAA tournaments. McRoberts says she is on pace with her objectives.
“I’m very excited. My main goal going into the season was qualifying for states. Next stop is Tom’s Run.” She said, adding, she was “going to keep working” on her swing and “tighten up her short game and consistency.
“I will be ready,” she declared.
While her swing coach, Dan Reilly, has her prepared for the technical aspect of the game, her father, Craig, has her ready for the mental part, including the thrill of victory. Craig was a basketball and baseball player at Bethel Park High School. He played first base on the Hawks’ only state championship team, in 1988, and went on to play at Penn State University.
“My dad tells me all the time, stories about how fun it was to compete in high school. Golf was going to be that for me,” said McRoberts. “So it’s real fun having him by my side, reliving the memories.
“My dad’s my greatest cheerleader. I owe him all of my confidence. I owe him everything. The amount of time he’s helped me. This is a real good moment for the two of us for all the work we have put together.”
Eventually, McRoberts wants to emulate her father and win a PIAA title.
Could it come later this month in York?
“We will see how it rolls out this year,” she said. “Take it step by step. I’ve got to go through Tom’s Run first and focus on Heritage Hills later. But a state championship is definitely a goal.”
The goal of a WPIAL and a PIAA title will elude Caroline McConnell this season. The South Fayette sophomore finished 11th in this year’s district tournament. She lost a playoff for the alternate spot after the first seven slots and qualifiers were selected. McConnell finished fourth in last year’s PIAA championships.
“Caroline set the bar high on what she can do,” said SF girls’ golf coach Rocky Violi. “I am very proud of her and what she did this year. What she did today is disappointing but I think she is going to come back even better from this.”