Bearcats want to make most of 2nd chance
Tim Barto and his St. Vincent golf teammates got the second chance they wanted.
The Bearcats will compete in the NCAA Division III Men's Golf Championships for the second consecutive year this week at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro, N.C., and Barto, a Kittanning graduate, said he and his teammates are motivated to produce a better showing.
Last year, St. Vincent competed in the championships at the Sandestin Golf Resort in Destin, Fla., but the performance was far from the team's best.
The Bearcats missed the team cut and finished in the bottom 10 with a two-round team score of 81-over-par. Barto struggled through rounds of 87 and 89 last year, but after he and his teammates won the President's Athletic Conference title and the automatic bid to the NCAA Championships last month, they knew they would get another shot on the big stage.
“We didn't prove ourselves last year, and I think we're going back down with a little bit of anger,” Barto said. “I think last year, we were a little happy just being there and a little complacent, but there's still no excuse for what we shot down there.”
Four of the five golfers expected to compete for St. Vincent played last year at the NCAAs.
Senior Derek Lingafelt (Penn-Trafford), junior Micah Markantone (Franklin Regional) and sophomore Jake Reed (Latrobe) all were in the lineup with Barto in Florida, and those four and freshman Ben Biss (Latrobe) made up the lineup that repeated this year as PAC champions. Lingafelt was the team's best at last year's NCAAs, but even he finished at 17-over, and no Bearcats golfer shot two rounds lower than 85.
With that as motivation, Barto has been eager in preparation for this year's NCAAs, which begin with the first round Tuesday.
“We get two practice rounds on the course, and we were already doing our research about it online,” Barto said. “We're not going down there with a score in mind. We just want to play each shot, one at a time, and stay in the moment.”
With a lineup filled by WPIAL products — all 12 players on the Bearcats roster are from Western Pennsylvania — Barto said there's also some motivation to represent their hometowns, in addition to their college.
“It definitely is a good thing that we're all from around here and sort of represent Western Pennsylvania and the WPIAL. It's nice to show that kids from local schools can go on to do something like this,” Barto said.
Barto's game has improved since he arrived at St. Vincent, and this year, he earned first-team all PAC honors after a top-five finish in the conference tournament.
While tweaks to improve his putting and short game have helped Barto shave strokes off his scores, that hasn't been the biggest change. He credits his coach, Thomas Cline, for helping him develop into a steadier player, and he hopes that will come through on the course this week in Greensboro.
“The biggest thing that has changed has been my mental game. We have a great coach who has done so much for us. I can't thank him enough for what he's done for us as a team,” Barto said.
“Playing golf in college and getting to go to NCAAs twice now has been such a great experience. I never want to take any of it for granted and want to enjoy every minute of it.”