On October 26, 2020, Cathedral Prep’s golf team won its second PIAA title in its history, winning it all at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in East York, Pennsylvania. The Ramblers won with a combined total of 13-over-par, led by senior Zachary Henry’s 1-under-par 70. That Monday’s victory was the Ramblers’ first golf championship since 2008.
In a year that was full of obstacles and uncertainties, head coach Jay Willow knew the challenges his team would go through and was prepared for it.
“[The toughest obstacle was] obviously COVID restrictions,” said Willow. “We usually play an extremely competitive schedule that takes us down to Pittsburgh and several times over into Ohio. With COVID restrictions, our travel was significantly limited. I was concerned that not playing in those large competitive events would affect us in the postseason. Thankfully, it didn’t.”
Senior Zach Henry had a different outlook on the new precautions from the coronavirus pandemic.
“We didn’t really have an obstacle to overcome except ourselves,” he said. “We worked so hard all season and all summer long for the opportunity to play and compete.”
Winning a state championship is a proud moment for a head coach of any sport. Coach Willow was more than just proud for his team.
“I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” he said. “I’ve known most of these guys since well before they came to high school and have seen them develop both as players and as men. For the four seniors, what better way to end your high school career. And the season was really a team effort. All five players were relied upon at various times throughout the season.”
Zach Henry added, “I am very happy with how I played this season, especially at the state tournament level. I had a lot to prove, and I worked my tail off to get to where I am today and was not going down without a fight to win states. I am extremely proud of our team’s performance as a whole. Each one of us played our hearts out for one reason, and that was to win. No one single-handedly carried the team it was all of us practicing and playing together and helping a teammate when he was down. This gave us an advantage over the competition, which overall led us to win.”
As every year has been for Prep golf, the expectations have always been sky high, with the ultimate goal of winning a state title.
“We go into every season expecting to compete for state championships, and this year wasn’t any different,” said Coach Willow. “That being said, in watching the summers that these guys had and taking into account how we were scoring throughout the season, we knew going into states that we would be right in the middle of things.”
For Zach Henry, he knew the potential of last year’s team could lead them to a championship, if everyone was willing to step up.
“In the postseason of last year we knew we had a deep team and we could all carry each other to a state title,” he said, “Every one of us stepped up in times we needed it to happen the most.”
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has limited sports programs’ abilities to compete with certain teams and has set regulations to prevent the spread of the disease, CP golf felt somewhat unaffected by the new changes.
“It didn’t really affect us in any way,” said Zach, “With golf it is pretty easy to social distance and maintain health guidelines. We are just happy to be given the opportunity to compete this season and show everyone the great team we are.”
Coach Willow also felt the same way with the new precautions as Henry did.
“Other than limiting our competition schedule, [it did] not really [affect us],” he said, “We didn’t have some of the trips that we usually have that the players enjoy, particularly those with hotel stays. Aside from that, the weather right up until the postseason was amazing, allowing for great practice sessions and good preparation.”
After finally winning a state championship in his four years at Cathedral Prep, Zach Henry’s dream as a Prep golfer had finally been realized.
“At the beginning of the season, having four seniors, knowing this is our last season together, we all wanted to go out with a bang,” he said. “Our goal for the season was to win states and just enjoy the walk out on the course and soak it all in. We did this and made memories that will last a lifetime.”
Coach Willow also reflected on the day he was hired as Prep golf head coach to finally winning a state championship with the Ramblers.
“I remember shortly after getting the position in 2012, an alumni and friend said to me, ‘Hey, congrats on the new job at Prep. As an alum, remember we’re 100 percent behind you win or tie,’” he said. “I accepted the position knowing that expectations were high, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve won 9 straight regional championships in my tenure and 6 district titles, competing at states in each of those 6 years. In several of those States years, we thought we could compete for a title and did. But there is a high level of golf in the state of Pennsylvania, for everything to come together to finally bring home the gold is really just icing on the cake. I can’t overstate how proud I am of this team and all of the teams that have come before them. I’m sure I can speak for my associate head coach Jeremy Kenyon in offering our appreciation of the support that we’ve received from Mr. Flanagan, Father Jabo and Mr. Hagerty, the entire Prep community and all of the parents and players that have set the standard by which each subsequent team aspires to reach.”