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WATERFORD – A middle school student defeated a recent high school graduate in the finals of the Erie District Golf Association Junior Match Play Tournament.

However, this result was not an ordinary surprise.

If you could even call it that.

Josiah Swan, the fourth of five Northeastern siblings to succeed in the sport, defeated Devon Lauer of Shippenville 3-1 on Wednesday at Ridge Golf Club. The rising eighth-grader not only beat the tournament’s top seed, but also an opponent who is on the cusp of his college golf career.

Lauer helped Clarion High School to three District 9 Class 2A wins and also qualified for the PIAA. He will attend Clarion University and play for the Division II Golden Eagles.

“There are a lot of good players out there,” Swan said, “so this (the win) definitely boosts my confidence.”

Also victorious on Wednesday was Alexis Marsh. The recent McDowell graduate led the girls standings with a 4-3 win over Mercyhurst Prep returnee Lena Fuss.

Familiar family standards

Josiah Swan won the tournament a few weeks after his older sister Anna Swan graduated from North East.

Anna Swan will play golf for Oral Roberts University alongside her sister Lydia Swan, a third-year golfer. Isaiah Swan, the oldest of Mike and Stacy’s five children, also played one season for Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

What this trio has in common, other than their last names, is that all of them have been PIAA gold medalists at some point during their golf careers as grapepickers.

Josiah Swan admitted that he felt pressure to live up to the standards set by his older siblings. The good news is that this did not exceed his healthy self-confidence.

“They’re all good players and they’ve helped me a lot,” Swan said, “but we all definitely have bragging rights.”

Keziah Swan followed Josiah throughout his match against Lauer. The youngest of the five Swan siblings competed in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championships at Augusta (Georgia) National Golf Club last April, which took place the weekend before the Masters.

Marsh to Maryland School

While Josiah Swan could win up to five more Junior Match Play plaques, Wednesday’s appearance was Marsh’s last. Once golfers begin college, they are no longer eligible for this EDGA event or the Great Lakes Junior Golf Tour event.

For Marsh, that means Stevenson University. She will attend the private school in Owings Mills, Maryland, and set record laps for the Division III Mustangs.

“I went back there for a second (visit) and I thought, ‘I could see myself there,'” Marsh said. “I’m excited. I’m ready to (play) at the college level and see what I can do.”

More: Mike Wolfe wins the EDGA Match Play tournament with a dominant victory against Ted Grass III

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Lauer wasn’t the only player from the Clarion area to compete in one of the tournament finals on Wednesday.

Braden Baylor of Knox won the boys B flight final, defeating eighth-grader Nicholas Salvatore of McKean, 3 and 1.

Jay Willow founded the Great Lakes Junior Golf Tour, previously known as the Flagship City Junior Tour, in 2012. The former Cathedral Prep golf coach did so to introduce the game to younger players and better prepare them for university and college competition.

The fact that Lauer, Baylor and their families regularly traveled well over an hour round trip to attend weekly events is a testament to what Willow originally envisioned for the tour.

It has grown to the point that the 2024 season began before Memorial Day weekend for the first time. Willow has also added events at new locations such as Wanango Country Club in Venango County and Hemlock Springs Golf Club in Geneva, Ohio.

“I wanted to expand (the tour) because I felt sorry for people like the Kerle family (from Shippenville) who brought their five children here every weekend to play in our events. I wanted to make this tour more geared towards them.”

The other important factor in Willow’s creation of the tour was to battle-test golfers, especially for the college game. He cited Josh James, who will graduate from Union City in 2023, as a prime example.

James competed in tournaments at Great Lakes prior to his season for the Bears, which contributed to his win in the 2021 PIAA 2A boys tournament and his recruitment by the St. Bonaventure University men’s golf program.

“When these kids come to the (varsity) tryouts in August, it’s not a nerve-racking experience for them,” Willow said. “It’s just another round of competition. When the kids who have never played competitive golf come to the tryouts, you can tell.”

Contact Mike Copper at [email protected]. Follow him on X @ETNcopper.

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Alexis Marsh and Lena Fuss met at the EDGA Junior Match Play tournament

Alexis Marsh and Lena Fuss met in the girls’ final of the EDGA Junior Match Play tournament at The Ridge Golf Club on Wednesday.