Favorite athlete: Saquon Barkley
Favorite teams: Penn State Football, the Steelers, and the Penguins
Favorite memory competing in sports:When I played youth football and threw a touchdown pass to win the game in overtime against Seneca Valley.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports:During my freshman year, we were at a golf match and one of my friends was in the last group to come in. Everyone else, including the other team, had already finished their rounds and was watching my friend stand over a three-foot putt on the last hole. Everyone was very quiet and serious. He started to take a practice stroke and right as he did, his putter broke and the head of the putter started spinning around the club. He had to putt out with his wedge.
Music on mobile device:I really like 70's and 80's music. I like The Police, Steve Miller Band, America, the Eagles, Pink Floyd, and The Rolling Stones.
Future plans:I want to go to Penn State to study electrical engineering and have a nice wife and family someday.
Favorite motto:"There is no such thing as a free lunch".
One goal before turning 30: I want to graduate from Penn State with an engineering degree, go to a job every morning that I enjoy, and collect a decent salary, so that I can live in a nice place and drive a nice car.
One thing people don’t know about me:I was born in Sarasota, Florida, lived in Pittsburgh, and have changed school districts four times. I also love to fish.
By Ed Morrone
Though it may not be the most mainstream of sports at the high school level, golf and Jack Cenci have always gone hand-in-hand.
Perhaps the allure of golf came from the fact that Cenci spent most of the first decade of his life living in Sarasota, Fla., where the sport could easily be played year-round. Or maybe it was due to the fact that his dad loved to golf and got Jack his first set of plastic clubs when he was just a small boy.
There are also simpler reasons why Cenci, now a senior at Central Bucks South, gravitated toward golf like a moth to a flame.
“There’s no running,” Cenci said with a laugh. “It’s pretty relaxing, so that helps, too.”
Cenci’s boyhood home was on a golf course, so it was pretty likely that he was going to find a club in his hands. Even after the family left Florida and moved to Pittsburgh when Jack was in third grade, and again when they came to Bucks County after his freshman year, the challenges and intricacies of golf always fascinated Cenci.
“You can never really beat it,” he said. “All you can do is always try to get better. You play against yourself, and the inner competition is constant.”
Cenci’s father works for the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, and he said he’s switched school districts four times throughout the course of his young life. Playing sports and being an athlete helped a young man always on the move make friends. Cenci also played baseball until the seventh grade before switching to lacrosse, a sport he also currently plays at the varsity level for CB South.
“The finding friends aspect is definitely hard at first,” Cenci said about moving. “But I think it’s helped me in the long run and it’s gotten easier. The fact that CB South is such a big school helps, too; I tell my friends here that I would have rather moved from Pittsburgh to here than here to Pittsburgh, because I came from a small school where everybody already knew everyone else. I know kids who have been in the same school district with the same friends their entire lives, and they tell me how hard they think it will be to make friends in college. I don’t really worry about that. I’ve done it so many times that I’m kind of used to it.”
When he first moved to the area at the beginning of the summer following his freshman year, Cenci met some kids from the area right away by playing for a club lacrosse team. He joined the golf team at South before his sophomore school year was even officially started, so he made some automatic friends right off the bat due to being a part of two teams. He said that sports have been such a vehicle toward forming bonds with kids his age that he couldn’t fathom a life without them.
That’s not to say Cenci’s transition from western Pennsylvania was completely seamless. He said his sophomore year tryouts were the most nervous he’s ever been on a course, and he was unsure where he would land among the competition in an enormous school like CB South and a deep, packed league like Suburban One. But the veteran golfers on the team were completely accepting, and before long, Cenci felt at home again.
South golf coach Tom Hill said Cenci usually posts an average score of around 40 to 41 on a par-36 course, but what’s amazing the fifth-year coach the most is how steady and even-keeled his golfer keeps it out on the links.
“Jack’s full of character and just a great competitor,” Hill said. “He cares about the sport and always gives full effort. He never comes across as cocky, and is just a good teammate who can relate well to others on the course, even the opposing team. Some guys can get distracted by other players or express discontent over a shot that didn’t go in. In terms of attitude and mannerisms, Jack is as steady as anyone.”
After getting acclimated as a sophomore, Cenci qualified for districts as a junior while helping the Titans to a 12-3 overall mark as a team, including a 9-3 mark in league play matches. Cenci acknowledged that the junior membership he obtained at Talamore Country Club in Ambler really helped him step up his game.
“I hit a ton of balls, and that’s where the consistency comes from,” he said. “I could practice whenever I wanted, and I definitely took advantage of that. You have to go and hit if you want to be good. Golf isn’t a sport you’ll excel at if you don’t regularly shoot.
“It’s also very important to have a short memory. You can’t beat yourself up over one bad shot or round. You never know what to expect on the course any given day, so I don’t get too emotional over things I can’t control. Districts, that was a lot of fun and I really rode that wave last year.”
Cenci said his ball striking is the biggest strength in his game, and he can hit it straight and far = about 275 yards. During his senior year, Cenci hopes to lower his individual score while qualifying for districts again (and perhaps advancing even farther). He also takes his role as a senior leader seriously, wanting to set a good example for the rising golfers, the same way the seniors did for him when he was a sophomore.
Cenci’s also a middie on the CB South lacrosse team, with last season being his first on the varsity squad. This spring, he’ll get to play on the same team as his younger brother, Cole, a football and lacrosse player for the Titans. Jack didn’t begin playing lacrosse until seventh grade, but happily ditched baseball for it due to the program’s community feel. And although golf is his number one sport, Cenci experiences an enthralling feeling any time he picks up a stick.
“Jack is an amazing young man,” CB South lacrosse coach Mike Strayline said. “He’s very dedicated to both lacrosse and golf. He works very hard during the offseason with us while still managing to play golf and maintain his academics. Jack’s a leader amongst his peers and will play a great role in our success this season.”
Speaking of academics, it’s no surprise to discover Cenci has a pretty good handle on those, too. He took a break from filling out his application to his dream college, Penn State, to talk for this story, and has visions of getting accepted and heading to Happy Valley to study electrical engineering. He doubted his ability to play golf or lacrosse at such a high level, but also maintained that he would love to explore playing either sport at the club level should he gain admission. However, Cenci did stress that education would be his main focus.
“I think I’ve got a pretty good chance to get in, knock on wood,” he said. “My dad went there, so he’s brainwashed me since I was born to be a Penn State fan. I’ve always been math-minded more than I’ve enjoyed writing, and I think I’d look forward to being a part of their engineering program. There’s so much opportunity in that field, and it’s attractive to me because jobs are in such high demand.”
When he’s not golfing, playing lacrosse or hitting the books, Cenci works part-time at Dunkin’ Donuts and enjoys keeping in touch with his friends from Pittsburgh by playing Xbox with them. As a native Floridian, Cenci also loves to fish, so much so that he and some friends at CB South started a fishing club last year. What started as a joke became a club of between 30 to 40 members, who will fish at lakes and ponds in the area and hope to take a fishing trip down the shore next summer before they all head their separate ways to college.
More than anything, sports have helped Cenci develop into the person he is today. Moving around so much can make a young kid socially awkward, but Cenci combatted that problem by always competing and being part of a team. When it is time to graduate from CB South and (hopefully) head to Happy Valley a shade under a year from now, Cenci won’t be intimidated by Penn State’s gigantic student body.
“Being an athlete just makes you a more well-rounded, responsible person,” he said. “You have to be more responsible when you’ve got more on your plate, and I think I’ll have already prepared myself for that when next year comes. Golf has made me a more well-rounded person etiquette wise as well. And it’s a game you can play your whole life. It can also help my future career, because if my boss wants to go golfing then I already know how to play.
“Being on these teams has been so much fun for me. I’ve created such strong friendships that are going to last a really long time. Competing is something that I truly love, and I’m really going to miss that a lot.”