St. Francis (Pa.) golf coach Chris Cascino spotted sisters Abby and Meghan Zambruno leaving Immergrun Golf Course after a recent practice round, and he called to them with a familiar question: Had Abby beaten Meghan?
Meghan, a freshman, shook her head “no.” Abby, a senior, wasn’t about to let her younger sister’s claim go unchallenged. She retorted, “Yeah, I probably beat you.”
Such is the friendly competition between the siblings, just as it has been down through the years. No matter who wins — or claims to win — their practice rounds, the Zambruno sisters are battling for a common cause: bringing the Red Flash a Northeast Conference championship.
St. Francis’ spring season gets underway March 13 in Daytona Beach, Fla., with a matchup against NEC foe Sacred Heart, the reigning conference champion. Abby and Meghan Zambruno, Greensburg Central Catholic grads, hope to be big parts of the Red Flash’s effort.
They are carrying on the family’s golfing legacy. The four Zambruno sisters made GCC one of the preeminent girls golf powers in Pennsylvania. Oldest sister Olivia, who wrapped up her collegiate career at Penn State last season, won back-to-back WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles in 2014 and ’15.
Olivia, Abby, Meghan and her twin sister, Ella, were part of a run of what is now eight straight WPIAL titles for the Centurions. Ella has set aside competitive golf and is running track at John Carroll.
“I’m happy for her to see her do her own thing,” Meghan said. “But I definitely miss having her around, but I think it was the best for the both of us to continue to do the things we actually love.”
Meghan does have Abby around, and that has been helpful in learning the ropes of college golf. Abby has experience playing most of the courses the Red Flash will see, so that advice is valuable to Meghan. Abby also is a calming presence.
“We always try to room together when we travel,” Abby said, “and just having your sister on the team to talk to when you get nervous or something good happens … it’s just good having her around.”
In the time he has worked with the Zambruno sisters, Cascino has come to appreciate their strengths and is helping them shore up the parts of their game that need it.
For Abby, the Achilles’ heel is distance. Cascino said she is not a long hitter to begin with, and the often chilly, breezy conditions during golf season in the Mid-Atlantic further hamper her shots, particularly off the tee. On the other hand, her short game, he said, is among the best on the team.
“She has a beautiful, smooth swing, very fundamentally sound,” Cascino said. “She has marvelous hands. As far as chipping and pitching the ball around the greens, sand play, she’s probably one of my top girls. And she’s probably one of my best putters, too.”
Added Meghan: “Abby is a really good scrambler, so her chipping and putting are very good. We usually end practices with Abby and I having a chip-off or a putt-off, and I think it’s just us pushing each other in that sense that Abby’s good short game pushes me to have a good short game, too.”
Meghan, meanwhile, is just beginning to scratch the surface of what she can accomplish at the college level. Cascino doesn’t rule out her being able to contend for an individual conference title, perhaps sooner rather than later.
In the fall, Meghan averaged 77 over her competitive rounds, which led the team and put her on par with the NEC’s top players. Her best effort was a 73 at Monmouth, which helped her finish third, and she was named an NEC golf “prime performer” for October.
“She’s a longer hitter, which helps her,” Cascino said. “She has almost a flawless golf swing, so her mishits are always in play. … She never really hits anything ugly … just a real steady, consistent ball striker.”
Cascino and assistant Max Kirsch have been encouraging Meghan to loosen the reins on her game a bit: shoot at more pins and be more aggressive with her putting. If she can do that, Cascino said, it could help launch her game to another level.
“She’s better than what she thinks she is,” he said.
Said Abby: “Meghan is definitely a great player, and she’ll definitely have a great career in college. I think she’s very strategic and knows her game very well. She prepares a lot, and that ultimately helps. And she’s very competitive.”
While Meghan looks to build on her strong fall season, Abby, Cascino said, will try to replicate her solid spring from a year ago. Cascino said she consistently was shooting in the low-80s, and another season like that could go a long way to helping the Red Flash exceed expectations in the NEC.
They were picked to finish eighth after placing seventh a year ago.
Regardless of what happens, this will be Abby’s final season of competitive golf. Though she has the option to take an extra year because of the pandemic, she has a job in marketing lined up once she graduates this spring.
“I really just want to enjoy it and live in the moment because I can never get it back,” she said. “For the spring, I just want to travel to as many tournaments as possible and take up all the experiences. This will be the last time I’m competing on a golf team, so just appreciating all the little things that go along with it.”
Such as playing one final competitive year with Meghan, though those friendly rounds likely will persist for years to come. Thanks to her sister’s guidance and a successful fall campaign, Meghan is looking forward to a bright future.
“I think I went into the (fall) season not really setting any goals or expectations for myself, so I am glad with how I did,” she said. “I think by not expecting too much of myself, it kind of took the pressure off me a little bit, and I was just able to play my game, and the scores spoke for themselves.
“I think I enjoyed playing with no pressure, so I’m kind of just carrying on the same mindset, just trying to do the same as I did in the fall season.”