---- — By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
FLEETWOOD -- Shikellamy senior C.J. Tyler has had more than his share of close calls when it came time to qualify for the PIAA Golf Championships, but not this year.
After just barely missing out on a trip to the PIAA Class AAA championship match in each of his first three seasons with the Braves, Tyler finally got that elusive berth as he fired a 1-under-par 71 to finish tied for third overall at the East Individual Regional held Monday at Golden Oaks Golf Course.
The other golfers from the Valley who will join Tyler at states -- held this Monday and Tuesday at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York -- are teammate Raven Fatool, herself a senior, plus Danville senior Austin Renz and Milton junior Katie Behnert.
"It's about time. The course got me three years in a row and I was finally able to put in a good round and get in under par," said Tyler, whose previous best on the course was an 80 he shot twice. He also shot an 81.
"At states I'm going to just try to keep hitting the ball the way I am now and try to put in two solid rounds and see what happens."
The big key for Tyler on the day was his short game, especially in the back nine where he carded a 34. He had a 37 on the front nine.
The Brave eagled the 13th and 15th holes and he also had a birdie on 17. It helped to erase a bogey he had on 16.
"I was able to make some key putts towards the end, and I hit the ball very well throughout the day -- obviously that's always good," said Tyler.
"The only thing different on the course (than in previous years) was that today was one of the nicest days of the year. There was no wind and it was gorgeous compared to other years when it was wet and windy."
Fatool played perhaps her best round of the year in order to punch her ticket to the girls Class AAA championship.
She fired an 8-over-par 80 (40-40) to finish 9th, 13 strokes behind the winner -- Council Rock North's Erica Herr -- and four strokes ahead of the final qualifier.
"It felt amazing (to qualify). I missed states last year by two strokes, and finally being able to make it is like icing on the cake for my senior year," said Fatool. "It feels great that me and C.J. qualified the same year so both of us can end our years the same way -- knowing we both worked hard and knowing we both earned our spot."
A year ago, Fatool was on the outside looking in after she finished two strokes away from the final qualifying spot.
She made sure that wouldn't happen again this year, despite bogeying holes 8, 11 and 16 while also sinking a ball in a water hazard in the front nine.
"The key was keeping my composure. I had two double bogeys and I hit the ball in the water on 4, and I shook it off and came back with a par," said Fatool. "At states I just want to golf and have fun and shoot in the low 80s again."
Renz is making his second straight trip to the PIAA Class AA state championship for the Ironmen after he shot a 1-over-par 73 (37-36) to finish 8th.
This will be Behnert's first trip to states. On Monday she shot an 88 to finish 7th.