On course for success
State tourney just another step for Butler's DeCola





SUMMIT TWPó Talk about the perfect Christmas gift.
Marissa DeCola received a set of golf clubs from her father when she was 6 years old.
"I remember getting those clubs. Like any little kid, I had to start playing with them right away,"DeCola said.
She hasn't stopped playing since.
Now 14, DeCola is a freshman on the Butler High girls golf team. She is one of only two freshmen playing in the PIAAgirls golf tournament, a two-day event concluding today at Heritage Hills Golf Club in York.
After the first day Monday, DeCola is tied for 19th at plus-11.
The other freshman in the event is Kendall Allen of Shady Side Academy, a friend of DeCola's. The two have played golf together many times.
"I've recognized a lot of the other players I've seen on the golf course this season,"DeCola said.
It's no wonder. For five years, DeCola has been competing on the King's Tri-State Junior PGATour and Plantation Junior Golf Tour. She's won numerous events within those organizations.
She carded an 84 at the region meet last week to qualify for the state competition. The top 11 scores qualified and the cut-off score was 86.
"I lucked out,"DeCola said, smiling. "Going into the region, I thought the cutoff score would be 82."
There's not much luck needed with DeCola's game, however. She consistently hits the ball straight and makes up for a lack of physical size and strength with a deadly short game.
"She looks like she doesn't weigh more than 80 pounds,"Butler girls golf coach Sarah Parker said. "But Marissa is such a solid player. She just doesn't make mistakes out there.
"As she matures and gets stronger, she has the ability to play professional golf someday. She's that good."
DeCola averaged 38 to 40 per nine-hole round this season. The Golden Tornado posted a 14-3 overall record, 11-3 in section play, losing to Center twice and Seneca Valley once.
The Butler girls golf program is only in its third year. The team did not win a match in its first year.
"We've come a long way,"Parker said. "With a player like Marissa around the next three years, we're going to keep growing."
DeCola was no stranger to her teammates when she entered high school this fall. She had been practicing with the team for the past two summers.
"I'm glad I did that because it helped my game and I got to know everybody,"DeCola said.
Her father, Dennis DeCola, said Marissa's skilled golf game is a result of her hard work over a period of years.
"I knew it'd be challenging for her to get to the state meet this year, but I knew she could do it," he said.
"She can drive the ball 175 to 200 yards. That's what we're working on now. She has a personal trainer at the Y working on her strength."
DeCola says she can save more strokes with improved putting. Regardless, practicing golf is far from a tedious chore for her.
"I love coming out here, meeting new friends, playing a round with my dad or brother," she said. "This is a game I want to play for a long time."
"She works at her game all year long," Parker said. "We're just beginning to hear about this girl."