Steve Taraska had never been in a playoff before Monday, but the St. Joseph High School golfer acted as if he’d been there all his life.
Taraska entered a three-way playoff for the individual title at the Cherry Valley Tournament and calmly made par while his two competitors, Jack Panagos of Hillsborough and Dylan Stein of Hunterdon Central, made bogey.
“I think it was a big win for Steve personally,” St. Joseph coach Ryan Lechner said. “He’s won before against smaller fields, but this was a bigger, more competitive field.”
Taraska had carded a round of 72, which is par for Cherry Valley Country Club, and headed out to the first tee to begin the playoff. From there, Lechner said, Taraska played it perfectly.
“He hit a beautiful tee shot,” Lechner said. “He left himself 160-165 yards and he told me he remembered how he’d played it the first time through and he laid in a perfect shot from the fairway to leave himself about a 15-20 footer for birdie.
“The other two guys got themselves into a little bit of trouble and Steve two-putted for par. He was very confident in the playoff .”
The Falcons have plenty of matches and tournaments left on their schedule this spring, but for Taraksa to get them started with an individual victory is encouraging, according to Lechner.
“I think this is something we can remember what we’re capable of,” Lechner said. “We have a lot of talent and we just need to harness it. If we have a day when everybody is playing well at the same time, we have a high ceiling and we’ll be hard to beat.”