CRANBERRY TWP — The big stage is nothing new to incoming North Catholic senior golfer Madie Smithco.
Now she's headed for the biggest — at least thus far — in her young career.
The Cranberry Township resident has been invited to compete in the inaugural High School Golf National Championship, organized by the National High School Golf Association. The event will take place Thursday and Friday at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
“They invited all of the state champions and a few other high placers,” Smithco said. “It's going to be a challenge, that's for sure.”
Winner of the tournament earns an exemption for the 2019 Junior PGA Championship, scheduled July 9-12.
“That would be nice,” Smithco said.
Smithco is the two-time PIAA Class AA champion. She shot a 78-77-155 to win the state title by two strokes last fall. She is defending WPIAL champion as well.
Central Valley golfer Kiara Porter, a friend of Smithco's, will also be competing in the national championship.
“Going down there, it's nice knowing somebody I can talk to before everything gets started,” Smithco said. “That will help diffuse the nerves a little bit.”
North Catholic golf coach John Haggerty questions just how nervous Smithco will be during the tournament.
“Her game is in a good place right now,” Haggerty said. “You never know what might happen ... I mean, she will be up against other golfers of her caliber, but Madie won't be lacking in confidence.
“She's played on big stages before. She's played tournaments in Virginia and Kentucky. She's done tour events and won state championships.”
Smithco will be part of a 97-golfer field in the girls portion of the national championships. High school coaches were invited to accompany the golfers to Florida.
Haggerty will not be making the trip.
“Madie is a self-sufficient golfer. She knows what she's doing out there,” he said. “I would only be getting in her way.”
Smithco plans to arrive in Florida two days before the tournament. The golfers will have an opportunity to practice on the course.
Traveling to golf tournaments is something Smithco's gotten used to doing. She will be playing on the Peggy Kirkbell Girls Golf Tour and the Girls League Junior Tour this summer.
“The Kirkbell Tour has tournaments that take a four-hour drive to get to,” Smithco said. “The other Tour has events in Ohio. That's not so bad.”
She is a member of the Sewickley Heights Golf Club as well.
Haggerty figures Smithco will hold her own at the national tournament by the nature of her game.
“She hits the ball extremely straight and long, 250 to 270 yards or so off the tee,” he said. “Because of that, she is always set up to compete.
“Madie does a good job of keeping the ball out of trouble. You never know, but I see no reason why she won't be competitive down there.”
The coach only hopes Smithco will have a chance to compete for North Catholic during her senior season. Right now, she is ruled ineligible by the WPIAL.
Dealing with concussion issues, Smithco transferred to Seneca Valley after the state championships last fall so she could do cyber school through that district.
“It was just part of the process of getting healthy and past those concussion symptoms,” she said. “I transferred back to North Catholic for the coming school year and they (WPIAL) said I can't play.”
Haggerty and North Catholic are in the process of appealing that decision.
“The transfer had to do with medical advice, not athletic,” Haggerty said. “I'm confident that (ineligibility) rule will be overturned, but you never know with these things.”