Mars grad Gabriel in golf national with BC3
Butler Eagle
Written by:
May 27, 2013

BUTLER TWP — Garrett Gabriel chose to stop shots instead of taking them when he was in high school at Mars.

Gabriel was a goalkeeper for the Planets’ soccer team in the late summer and early fall months. There was no room in his hectic schedule to drive a golf ball down the middle of a fairway for the school’s golf team.

And he was a very good goalkeeper, too, recording six shutouts as a senior.

When he enrolled at Butler County Community College last summer, he still had no inclination to play golf for the Pioneers.

Gabriel, though, remained an avid golfer, and when he found out BC3 had a golf team, he was intrigued.

“I loved golf and I always wanted to get better at it,” Gabriel said. “I worked on my game during the summer and knocked nine strokes off my score.”

That’s when he knew he could give golf a shot at the community college.

“I signed up. I was curious,” Gabriel said. “It was a ton of fun.”

And Gabriel — and the Pioneers — have enjoyed a ton of success this season.

The team — with other Butler County golfers Tyler Friel of Butler, Matt Eshelman of Knoch and Tucker Preston of Karns City — finished second in the state during the fall season and won the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Region XX Tournament recently.

The region title earned the Pioneers a spot in the NJCAA National Tournament at Chautauqua Golf Club in Chautauqua, N.Y., June 2-7.

Gabriel finished third in the region tournament, firing an 85-79 for a 164.

Scores were high in the first round at Youghiogheny Country Club May 13 because of snow squalls and wind.

Yes, snow.

“I got caught in a snow storm on No. 2,” Friel said. “It added to the difficulty.”

Friel, though, put together his best two-round score of the season, finishing fourth with an 85-81 for a 166, just two strokes behind Gabriel.

The score was even more amazing because Friel had few opportunities to practice in the days leading up to the tournament.

“I hit fairways. I hit greens,” Friel said. “I was happy.”

The Pioneers will leave two days before the national tournament begins to play a couple of practice rounds. The tournament is a four-round event.

“I’m so excited,” Gabriel said. “I never really expected anything like this. I never thought I’d be playing in a national tournament in my life.”

For Friel, it’s another opportunity to improve.

“It’s a very special experience,” Friel said. “It’s another chance to wear the BC3 shirt and represent our school.”

Pioneers’ golf coach Bill Miller said the future is bright beyond this season.

Gabriel, Friel and Preston are freshmen.

Eshelman is the only sophomore.

“They have taken on every challenge,” Miller said. “(The region tournament) was difficult because of the weather, the cold temperatures, playing tournament golf, playing from the back tees, but they played well.

“We have three returning. It’s a good start for next year.”

But the focus is on this year and on the national tournament.

“There are going to be some very good golfers there,” Friel said. “I think the one thing with the guys on this team is we all know what we are capable of. I think we can put up some very respectable scores.”