Juhasz out­lasts Wil­son

Free­dom High grad beats de­fend­ing champ to win ti­tle

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - By Michael Blouse

Zach Juhasz glanced to­ward the large gallery sur­round­ing the 16th green at Green Pond Coun­try Club.

He checked his pulse.

He also took an unusu­ally long time to line up a short putt, then missed an op­por­tu­nity to close out his match against Ja­son Wil­son. Juhasz re­grouped quickly, how­ever, as he had through­out the 83rd an­nual Le­high Val­ley Amateur.

The 22-year-old Free­dom High School grad­u­ate pre­vailed Sun­day in the Cham­pi­onship Flight fi­nal on No. 17, the first time he’d played the hole all week. Juhasz and Wil­son both parred the 17th and Juhasz de­feated the de­fend­ing cham­pion by two holes with one re­main­ing to win his first L.V. Amateur ti­tle.

“Are you kid­ding me?” Juhasz asked in re­sponse to a question about his anx­i­ety lev­els on the putt at 16.

“Nerves are an un­der­state­ment. It was prob­a­bly like 5 feet. It was just a mis­read; I thought it was go­ing to go right and it didn’t. I still thought I made it but I didn’t. But yes, I was crazy ner­vous.”

Juhasz stuck his tee shot onto the green on the 188-yard, par-3 17th and Wil­son did the same. They both missed birdie at­tempts, then halved the hole with pars.

The large gallery fol­low­ing the fi­nal ap­plauded loudly for two of the area’s more pop­u­lar play­ers.

“I’ve had dreams for a while of win­ning this,” Juhasz said. “I thought I could win the sec­ond year I played it in 2016. But it’s al­ways been up there on the list. It goes like: state am and then LV Amateur. Right now, it’s real close though. Ev­ery­one cir­cles their calendar for the LV Am. It’s the best week of golf, hon­estly.”

Both Juhasz and Wil­son ar­rived at the cham­pi­onship show­down — Wil­son was the top seed based on his ti­tle last year; Juhasz was seeded sec­ond as the qual­i­fy­ing medal­ist — af­ter rel­a­tively com­fort­able wins in Sun­day morn­ing’s semifinals.

Juhasz ousted 14-year-old Em­maus High School fresh­man John Keba 3-and-2, while Wil­son elim­i­nated Steve Castel­lani 4-and-3.

Wil­son, 45, played from ahead against Juhasz for only one hole — he went 1-up af­ter tak­ing Nos. 2 and 3. De­spite his way­ward drives, Wil­son stayed close to Juhasz through­out the round. Juhasz called his bo­gey on the ninth hole a turn­ing point.

“I got up-and-down for a bo­gey,” Juhasz said, “and that was pretty huge. I could’ve eas­ily made a dou­ble and lost the hole. I was grind­ing as hard as I pos­si­bly could and made sure I didn’t give up on any holes.

“I felt like I played pretty well. I’ve been play­ing good for the last two or three months, just try­ing to keep it steady. [Satur­day], I didn’t hit it too well but the short game’s been good the last cou­ple days.”

Wil­son, a Le­high Val­ley golf hall of famer, ac­knowl­edged his strug­gles off the tee and con­grat­u­lated his op­po­nent for a match well played.

“I didn’t drive the ball well. I didn’t hit it in play very often and I found my­self scram­bling,” said Wil­son, who was try­ing to be­come the first re­peat cham­pion in 28 years. “I did OK with that for a while and I had a lit­tle of that through­out the week but this was clearly the worst day for my tee game.

“Zach played so solid all week and I knew it wasn’t go­ing to get me very far play­ing poorly against him. I’m proud of Zach. He’s a great kid with a ton of tal­ent.”

Juhasz, whose gallery in­cluded his for­mer prin­ci­pal at Free­dom, Mike LaPorta, has lost 100 pounds over the last six months. Juhasz has won the past two Le­high Val­ley Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons ti­tles and is the de­fend­ing club champ at Northamp­ton.

He was thrilled to add to his list of ac­com­plish­ments on Sun­day.

“This means ev­ery­thing,” Juhasz said. “I’m a peo­ple per­son. I love when peo­ple come to watch. I think this is the first time my dad’s [Abel] come to watch since I was a sopho­more in high school, when I first started.

“It’s been an ab­so­lute crazy year. But from the weight stand­point, I’m feel­ing a lot bet­ter and play­ing a lot bet­ter. In gen­eral, life isn’t too bad right now.”

Michael Blouse is a free­lance writer.


Zach Juhasz gets a read on the green at the Le­high Val­ley Amateur tour­na­ment Sun­day at Green Pond Coun­try Club in Beth­le­hem Town­ship.

Ja­son Wil­son lines up a putt at the Le­high Val­ley Amateur golf tour­na­ment Sun­day at Green Pond Coun­try Club.

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