Waynesboro golfers competing at District 3 Championships

Waynesboro golf coach Ryan Henderson, center, is flanked by the team's two District 3-AAA tournament qualifiers, Evan Stein, left, and Tyler Fortney. LEE GOODWIN/LOCAL.NEWS

Waynesboro Area Senior High School senior Evan Stein’s final year on the varsity golf team has been extended.

Sophomore Tyler Fortney is competing in what he hopes is the first of three PIAA District 3-AAA Championships.

Stein and Fortney, the team’s top two scorers during the season, practiced at the host course of this weekend’s district tournament on Monday. On Wednesday, they were at the Waynesboro Country Club driving range working on their long game.

On Friday morning, they will be competing against more than 60 golfers to make the cut at Briarwood East Golf Club in York (a and play on Saturday for the chance to advance to the state tournament. The top 32 finishers on Friday move on. The top 18 qualify for the state championships.

“The ultimate goal is to go to states, but I just want to go out and have fun,” said Fortney, whose best all-time score is a 66 (at Waynesboro Country Club).

Fortney, along with the rest of the field, will start the day at 10 a.m. on Hole 1B. Stein will tee off from the 17th hole.

The teammates on the Mid-Penn Colonial Division champions have forged a bond that comes with being the only two members of the team to compete in the postseason.

Both are transplants from Chambersburg – Fortney moved to Waynesboro when he was in eighth grade, Stein when he was in fourth grade. They both started playing golf at a very young age (two or three). They even attended the same elementary school in Fayetteville.

Fortney lived by the 14th hole at Penn National Golf Course, but none of his family played golf. Stein’s father, Jim, played golf, but Evan said he never took formal golf lessons.

His progression from junior golfer to a pretty good high school golfer involved sheer repetition from actual competition.

“I thought I was pretty good at golf when I was 10 or 11, and then I started playing in tournaments and realized I wasn’t as good as I thought. But, in 11th grade I started to realize I was a lot better than I was.”

Fortney had a similar trajectory. He started playing, then he started playing competitively. In fact, both played in PGA junior events.

“I acquired a drive for it, and ever since, I’ve kept playing,” Fortney said. “I’ve only taken a couple of lessons in my life. I’m mostly self-taught. I learn as I go.”

The pair who were key contributors in the team’s 43-1 division record this season hope to advance to the PIAA Championships that will be played at Penn State University.

They even share a common interest beyond high school – majoring in business.

For now, Stein and Fortney are trying to maintain a laser focus on performing their best against the best that District 3 has to offer. And, if they can match, or at least finish close to their best scores this season, they might just punch their proverbial tickets to states.

Stein carded a 70 earlier in the season, while Fortney headed into the clubhouse with a 71 for his personal best score.

Stein inherited the number one position from WASHS grad Devin Smith, who is a member of the Mount St. Mary’s golf team and placed fourth in the PIAA tourney as a senior.

“Evan is the only player that has started for me, and we have won the division all four years of his high school career,” said Henderson. “He’s got a good attitude; he’s matured a lot on and off the course. He is steadier, which is a necessity in golf.

“Evan is very driven. When he gets out there, he wants to do the best he possibly can. Early on, that hurt him because he would get upset and angry. Now, he takes what would have been anger is now focus.”

Stein’s average scores dropped from his freshman season to his senior season, from about 83 as a ninth grader to upper 70s as a senior.

The biggest challenge for Stein isn’t so much the competition, but himself.

“The hardest part of the game for me is the some of the stuff in my head, because I hit some bad shots and got down on myself not so much anymore and that’s why I’m playing better lately,” Stein said. “It’s one shot at a time; that’s all I can control.”

“I find I get the most practice when I’m out playing,” said Stein. “It’s personal for everyone. I’ve never had a golf lesson in my life. My dad just gives me tips and I work with what I got. A lot of what I do comes naturally.”

Henderson gets to watch Fortney develop his game for another two years.

“Tyler is my young phenom,” Henderson said. “He’s the kid who came to me with all kinds of game. I look at him fundamentally and there have only been one or two things to work on. He’s got every shot in the bag that he can execute those shots. There’s a ceiling effect, because the kid is already great. He’s got the complete game.”

Fortney echoed Stein’s assessment of the mental aspect of the sport.

“Forgetting bad shots, forgetting bad holes,” he said. “Because, if you have a bad hole and keep it with you doesn’t help. Staying positive is the biggest key. You have to forget about it; you have to restart.”

The District 3 tournament will be a good marker for both golfers. The par-72, 6,910-yard course features four par-5 holes (three on the front nine) and 10 par-4 holes.

“We’re at a point now where 18 holes won’t cut it,” said Henderson. “Now you’ve gotta be focused for 36 holes to get to states. You have to have that focus and energy over two days.”

Henderson is excited about the opportunity that lies before Stein and Fortney.

“My message is let’s just golf, a different venue, a different event, but it’s just a golf course,” he said. “They are that good, otherwise they wouldn’t be there. They’ve proven themselves. The more you put yourself in that position, the more comfortable you are. Hopefully, they get in a zone and play golf.”

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