The PIAA  golf championships begin Monday, and defending boys' Class 3A team champion Unionville will have brothers Will and Connor Bennink in the individual field at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York. Unionville sophomore Charlotte Scully qualified for the girls' tournament.

The individual championships are set for Monday and Tuesday, and the team championships are scheduled for Wednesday.

Will Bennink advanced from the East Region championship at Golden Oaks Golf Club in Fleetwood last Monday with a 3-over-par 75. Fellow senior Connor Bennink moved on with a 5-over-par 77. The top local boys' golfer to advance was Council Rock South's Matt Fleming with a 1-under-par 71.

This season was another banner year for Unionville. Coach Jim O'Rourke said every other team in the boys' tournament will be out to knock off the defending champs.

"We posted the best team score [292] in Pennsylvania history at the 2017 state tournament," O'Rourke said. "We can't hide behind a name no one knows anymore. We have to stay in the moment."

The 2017 state team title was the first in school history, and it was O'Rourke's first year as head coach.

The Indians, who won their fourth straight Ches-Mont League boys' championship, won the District 1 3A title for the second straight year and qualified four players — Richie Kline, Jack Cooley, and the Bennink brothers — for last week's East Region tournament. O'Rourke said that league and district play were good preparation for the region and state competition.

"We feel like our district is the toughest," O'Rourke said. "Everybody at states is going to be ready. The level of competition is only going up. We are good. If we keep the same focus and do what we know how to do, we can win states again."

Klein, who missed the state cut with a 10-over-par 82 in the regional tournament, said success has made the players even more competitive. Cooley also shot an 82 at the regional match.

“Just because I was on the team last year doesn’t mean I automatically belonged this year,” said Klein, who joined the Bennink brothers and graduated players Jake McCloskey and Nick Gianelos on the 2017 title team. “It’s more competitive this year within the team than last year, which makes us even better when we play other teams.”

Unionville’s Connor Bennink (left) and Richie Kline (right) flank Coach Jim O’Rourke.
ED HILLE
Unionville’s Connor Bennink (left) and Richie Kline (right) flank Coach Jim O’Rourke.

Connor Bennink, who tied for fifth at states last year,  said the players put aside their personal agendas this season.

"I think [Coach O'Rourke] does a real good job of trying to get everybody to work together," he said. "Golf is such a individual sport, everyone can be a little selfish at times. He kept us all on the same page."

Scully reached the state tournament, finishing tied for 14th, last year as an individual because Unionville did not have a girls' team. She advanced this year with a 9-over-par 81. Pennsbury's Jade Gu was the top 3A girls' state qualifier with a 1-under 71.

This is the first year Unionville has fielded a girls' team."Numbers [are] a challenge," said girls' coach Joe Sudimak. "We should be carrying eight girls, but we only have six this year. We're competing, and as a first-year program, that's all you can ask of these girls."

Sudimak said that Scully, who played with the boys last year before the girls' team was formed,  inspired other girls to join this season.

"You look at a girl like Charlotte, who is very good but had to compete on the boys' team that was so good that she couldn't get a lot of time on the field," he said. "Her talent helped opened the school's eyes to create a girls' team."