by Tom Utescher

New Chestnut Hill Academy golf coach Francis Vaughn with the Blue Devils’ senior co-captains, Jack Russell (left) and John McNiff. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

The golf squads from Chestnut Hill Academy and Penn Charter went stroke-for-stroke as they split their home/away series last week, with just three points separating their total team scores. On Monday at CHA’s home course at Sunnybrook, the Blue Devils edged PC, 258-259. A day later at Huntingdon Valley Country Club the Quakers gained the upper hand, 249-251.

Each team had lost its league opener the previous week, CHA succumbing to Germantown Academy, and Charter falling to Episcopal. PC had logged a non-league victory over George School.

While Travis Larabee continues at the helm of the Penn Charter program, CHA has a new skipper in the person of former University of Pennsylvania coach Francis Vaughn.

A native of Hershey, Pa., Vaughn was a member of the golf team at East Carolina University. After graduating in 1991 he played professionally for five years, then spent 12 years at the University of Pennsylvania, becoming Director of Golf and overseeing both the men’s and women’s programs.

The women’s team at Penn was started during his tenure, and the men’s team won two Ivy League championships and was runner-up twice. After the 2007-2008 season Vaughn left the Quakers to devote more time to his business ventures in the thoroughbred racing industry.

The Inter-Ac league is moving its golf season to the fall, when just about every other league in the state plays the sport. This created a time crunch for longtime CHA coach Jim Talbot, who runs Camp Tecumseh in New Hampshire (which draws heavily from the Philadelphia area).

Around the same time, CHA’s home course club, Sunnybrook, announced the departure of pro Jon Allen, who regularly provided instruction for the Blue Devils’ players. Seeking new leadership, the school made the connection with Vaughn through his friend John McNiff, whose sons John and Nick are members of the Chestnut Hill team.

Under dry, balmy conditions in last week’s first match against Penn Charter, John McNiff shot a 41, and his playing partner and fellow senior Ted Dalglish recorded a 47. The rest of their foursome consisted of PC junior George Braun and senior Jeff Blechschmidt, who scored a 43 and a 44, respectively.

McNiff is a team co-captain for Chestnut Hill along with classmate Jack Russell. Russell and another senior, Jack Maine, each came around in 41 strokes at Sunnybrook, ahead of the Charter players in their foursome, senior John Lee, with a 43, and sophomore Luke Angelakis, who shot a 48.

Charter also received a 48 from junior Alexis Lo, but her playing partner Bobby Wurtz proved to be the only golfer on either team to break 40, giving the Quakers a round of 39. The CHA half of this quartet, junior Nick McNiff and senior Quint Frazier, produced a 41 and a 47, respectively.

Within the remaining foursome, junior John Hass and freshman Jack Grasso each carded a 47 for Chestnut Hill. PC’s Luke Schweitzer, a former classmate of Hass at CHA, scored a 46 for the Quakers, and sophomore Andrew Glatz had a 44.

Charter was able to avenge the close loss at Sunnybrook the following day, playing on its home course at Huntingdon Valley. Rain set in early in the encounter, but the golfers were able to get through the par-35 circuit and PC pulled out a two-stroke victory. The best score of the day belonged to the Quakers’ Schweitzer, who birdied the second hole en route to a round of 38.