Out of Left Field with Ken Cara - A Tribute to Coach Martonick and the 2022 Golf Season

Penn State Hazleton golf championship photo. From left: Ryan Aten, Grant Culbert, Jeremy Harper, Kolton Weaver, Colin Hoy, Aaron Kellmer and Joey Rebarchick.
Penn State Hazleton golf championship photo. From left: Ryan Aten, Grant Culbert, Jeremy Harper, Kolton Weaver, Colin Hoy, Aaron Kellmer and Joey Rebarchick.

On October 11 of 2022, Penn State Hazleton won its second consecutive Penn State University Athletic Conference golf championship and boasted their best performance ever during the United States Collegiate Athletic Association National Championships with a fourth-place finish. But that effort meant so much more to the program and its players, both past and present. It was the culmination of a career of Hazleton's one and only golf coach for the past 16 years, Jason Martonick, whose untimely death in July of 2022 left family, friends, and a campus in shock, not to mention a void in the golf program that will never truly be filled.

Members of the golf team did their very best to combat the grief and stress that the events of the summer had in store for them but with the collegiate golf season just weeks away, there was only one thing to do…make Jay proud. The cornerstones of Martonick's program have always been that of integrity, hard work, focus and friendship. Applying those principles to the game of golf, academics, and everyday life would go a long way to mend wounds while continuing to generate success for the student-athletes.

Fortunately, the team had four returning players from their championship season a year ago and plenty of experience and wisdom to lean on as they pursued a repeat of the conference title. Seniors Jeremy Harper (Mt. Top, Pa.) and Colin Hoy (Harlysville, Pa.)  would lead the charge along with sophomore Joey Rebarchick (Hazle Twp, Pa.) and Kolton Weaver (Bloomsburg, Pa.), while senior Aaron Kellmer (Hazleton, Pa.) and freshman Grant Culbert (Pine Grove, Pa.)  rounded out the talented squad. All of them would answer the call at one point or another during the season, providing leadership and support for each other as well as excellence on the golf course.

The season started out promising with Hazleton placing second in the first event of the year and winning the Brandywine Invitational at Springfield Country Club in Media, Pa. Following the win, things would take an unexpected turn as Jeremy Harper, who won the individual title at the first two events of the season, was struck with a pair of injuries that would keep him out of competition, quite possibly for the remainder of his senior year.

Over the next several weeks it was a mixed bag for the Nittany Lions. Culbert, Weaver, and Kellmer posted consistent scores at the tail end of the Hazleton lineup. Colin Hoy played some incredible golf at times but continued to search for the complete round that could put him in the winner's circle. Rebarchick was up and down in the truest sense of the phrase, winning the PSUAC Blue Course Invitational with a round of two under par one week, and searching for a golf swing the next. Hazleton's best finish down the stretch came at their home course, Valley Country Club where the squad finished just two strokes out of first place. But could Hazleton bounce back to win the championship a week later?

As fate would have it, luck was on their side. Harper, just weeks removed from a wrist and foot injury, was given a medical release to compete, bolstering the lineup at the most crucial point of the season. Harper was not at his best during the championship practice round, but when it came time to compete, the senior showed up for the team. Harper shot a four over 75 that Monday at the PSUAC/USCAA Championships, leading Hazleton and finishing the day in fourth place overall. Harper's effort was accompanied by solid rounds of golf from Hoy who shot an 81, Rebarchick with 82 and Culbert who posted an 83. Their combined efforts left Hazleton in 3rd place nationally and gave the Nittany Lions an eight-shot lead in the Penn State University Athletic Conference Championship.

Hazleton was looking good after day one although Penn State York was nipping at their heels in second place, thanks to their senior Logan Snyder's one under par round on day one. Harper and Rebarchick and Culbert all had their struggles at the start of day two. The trio combined to shoot 24 over par on the front nine, just one stroke ahead of their combined score for the entire first round. All three players would rally on the back nine, but the door was open for a York comeback and a disappointing finish for Hazleton.

 Meanwhile, Colin Hoy was having one of the best days of any player on the golf course. The senior had three bogies in the first five holes but a birdie at the par four, seventh hole sparked some terrific golf down the stretch. Hoy made five straight pars after the birdie to stabilize the round and ball-striking and putting only got better from there. Hoy went on to make crucial shots in his final nine holes, including birdies at the short par four, 13th hole and a brilliant birdie at the difficult par three, 17th hole, erasing the previous bogies. The senior finished strong, posting a mark of two under par on the back nine to card an even par round, tied for the best score of the day and his best round of the season.

Likewise, Aaron Kellmer was quietly positioning himself for his best round of the year. After a disappointing round on day one, the senior bounced back with an 87 on day two, chipping in for birdie on his very last hole of the tournament. Harper and Culbert finished their day with rounds of 79 and 86 respectively, combining with Hoy and Kellmer to give Hazleton a two-day total of 645, beating York by just one shot. It took every ounce of focus and energy from each player but in the end, they had achieved the goal they had set for themselves at the start of the season…"do it for Jay."

Hoy and Harper's outstanding performances earned each member of the duo a first-team selection to the USCAA All-American team with Hoy finishing in 5th place overall in the USCAA and Harper coming in a tie for 6th place. The pair would rank second and third overall in the PSUAC behind York's Logan Snyder who also won the USCAA National title as an individual.

Hazleton's PSUAC Championship was a fitting conclusion and in fact the only conclusion capable of alleviating the trials of the previous three months. The team had been on an incredible journey full of sadness, failure, and greatness. They held true to the lessons their late coach had instilled in them, put in hours of hard work and ultimately earned success together, solidifying their legacy in the history books of Penn State Hazleton golf and that of head coach Jason Martonick.

Following their tremendous accomplishments, the Penn State Hazleton Golf team was visited by SSPTV Sports Director Ken Cara to discuss their journey this season. Click here to view the segment dedicated to coach Martonick and the 2022 PSUAC Golf Champions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCT8cYIsMik