Local talent highlights Penguins golf | News, Sports, Jobs

Correspondent photo / Robert Hayes YSU freshman Ryan Sam tees off Tuesday afternoon, a Boardman graduate himself, he’s playing a big role early in his career.

WESTLAKE — Nothing pushes an athlete to be their sharpest more than tough competition. This is especially true in a sport like golf, where it is very individualized, yet very community-driven.

Sure, team scoring is critical, and having that support is almost essential, but at the end of the day, it’s just the athlete, their clubs, the course, and competitors. It’s that competitive drive and sense of familiarity that has led Youngstown State to field nine local players out of their ten roster spots this season.

McDonald, Campbell Memorial, Mineral Ridge, and Brookfield are represented by the Penguins, but Boardman fills the most roster spots on the team.

YSU wrapped up play Tuesday afternoon at the Tom Tontimonia Invitational at the Lakewood Country Club as they continue their fall slate, but their lineup was notable for sporting all five Spartan alums on their roster.

Penguins coach Tony Joy is no stranger to the golf scene in the Mahoning Valley. He’s a ’69 graduate of Howland and spent a season at Louisiana State University before coming back home and having a Hall of Famer career as a player at YSU.

Joy has been at the helm of the YSU program since 1984 and has found value in recruiting locally.

“It’s nice, the kids are all friends and the chemistry is great and they all pull for each other,” Joy said. “It’s been one of those things, I’ve kinda recruited kids locally that I think can get a good education and obviously compete at a Division I golf level.”

More so than in the past, golf is a sport that has seen tons of growth throughout the junior levels, and has led to a higher ceiling for players working through the circuit and into high school.

Freshman Ryan Sam picked up golf during his freshman year at Boardman, finding out that he had untapped talent. Despite his achievements and run to the state tournament in 2021, he credits who he did more than anything.

“It’s pretty cool, especially with Michael Porter (McDonald), we really battled all summer last year and every tournament, we even kept tallies back and forth when we beat each other,” Sam said. “To go from that to being teammates this fall was definitely pretty cool.

“I’ve always liked the guys, we’ve always had a good relationship, but now I’m really cheering for them, not that I ever cheered against them, but I was just trying to beat them.”

Sam remembers facing off against some current teammates like Jake Sylak (Mineral Ridge), Conner Stevens (Brookfield), and Dean Austalosh (Campbell Memorial). Freshman Ayden Richmond from Geneva is the only member of the roster from outside of the valley.

“We just are really special, the bond and the relationships that we have with each other just set us apart. There’s a lot of good opportunities whether it just be from the country clubs and their junior programs or Greatest Golfers’ really good set of events for juniors and even for adults and the older kids once you get up there.”

Fifth-year senior Bryan Kordupel, alongside redshirt seniors Cade Kreps, Brian Terlesky, and senior Cole Christman rounded out the “All-Boardman” lineup to an eighth place finish overall during the two-day event.

“It’s just really special to have your buddies with you, it gives you something a little extra to play for usually,” Kordupel said, praising the local talent. “I think it’s high caliber, there’s always people getting better and the next wave behind us is just as good I’d say.

“Not only just in tournaments, we all just knew each other playing growing up because they’re all your buddies, it gives you that extra edge because you want to beat each other, but when you come together and you’re on one team , you want to beat each other still, but you want to beat other people and show that we can do some stuff too.”

A late-bloomer similar to Sam in regards to golf, Kordupel, like all other college athletes was given an “extra” season due to the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. Time is a valuable commodity, one that Kordupel doesn’t take for granted.

“Ride the highs, don’t get too down on the lows, just lead by example more so than anything,” he added. “It does feel (surreal), I can’t believe it, because I graduated last year, and getting a bonus year is great.

“Last year, the last practice at YCC, it kinda hit me that Ken, Kevin, Ford and those guys are all going to be leaving and this should be my last practice, so I think having that extra year has really been awesome just to take it all in a little bit more and really enjoy it.”

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