Kittanning's Klodowski seeks elusive first-place finish
Kittanning senior golfer Jordan Klodowski gets one last shot to go for first.
As the most accomplished team member in Kittanning's history, Klodowski already has a proud legacy among the Wildcats, who've existed since 2000. But the senior aims to capture an honor that has eluded him — a title-winning finish in a postseason individual tournament.
He'll pursue that goal for the final time as he competes on high school golf's grandest stage, the PIAA Class AA championship, which begins Monday and continues with a second round Tuesday at Heritage Hills Golf Resort in York.
Klodowski is Kittanning's first PIAA tournament qualifier.
“It's definitely exciting just to make it, but at the same time, I feel like I deserve to be here and that I can compete with these guys,” he said.
His career includes several near-championship performances. In section tournaments — two in Class AAA and the latest in Class AA — he placed second as a sophomore, third as a junior and second as a senior.
Klodowski missed the cut at WPIAL semifinal tournaments the past two years. No semifinal round stood in his way this season as a Class AA participant, so he made his first WPIAL finals appearance and tied for ninth to advance to the PIAA Western Region qualifier.
At that tournament, held one week ago at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville, Klodowski tied for 12th, a finish that earned him a spot in the state finals.
Klodowski considered his round at Tom's Run his best of the postseason, even if his score and place in the field suggested otherwise.
“I hit the ball solid all day, and I stayed out of trouble,” said Klodowski, who shot a 79.
Klodowski finds the two-day format of the PIAA tournament favorable. He believes it'll allow the 36 golfers in the field to show their ability to learn the 6,525-yard, par-71 course over the span of two-plus days.
“I think the better players will end up where they should be,” Klodowski said. “If you have a bad day, you can make it back.”
Coach Bud Stanley looks forward to this last opportunity to watch Klodowski. During his time in charge of the team, Stanley has not encountered a Wildcat with Klodowski's mixture of skill, strength and studiousness.
“Jordan is the complete package,” Stanley said. “He thinks his game through. He takes care of himself physically. And he obviously practices a lot. He has learned how to overcome negative things. That's probably where he has improved the most in the four years I've had him.”
As a newcomer to the PIAA finals, Klodowski might ask for some tips from the guy who beat him for the Section 1 title this year, Leechburg junior Matt Barto.
Barto, the WPIAL champion and regional runner-up, is a returning state qualifier.
When Barto competed in York a year ago, the PIAA held only one golf championship. This season marks the first time the PIAA will crown separate Class AAA and AA winners.
“I feel a lot more comfortable this year,” said Barto, who tied for 40th as a sophomore. “Last year, I was antsy and overwhelmed. My whole goal was to make states. I got so caught up in each round. I got burned out and lost my energy. This year, I am more comfortable with the pressure.”
Pressure undoubtedly exists for Freeport freshman Audrey Clawson, who will compete in the Class AA girls championship. Clawson is Freeport's second state qualifier, joining Kelsey Harned, who made it in 2000.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-543-1303.