Despite departures, Kittanning golf thrives
Kittanning's boys golf team has no seniors and graduated the state's 20th-place finisher from last year, and yet this year's Wildcats might be a better team.
The Wildcats entered this week with a 5-1 overall record and a 4-0 mark to lead Section 1-AA on the strength of across-the-board improvement by its players in the everyday lineup.
Five juniors — four of whom are returning starters — make up the core of the Kittanning lineup, and all five have dropped their per-round average by three strokes or more from their scores from last year.
“Everybody is improved. These guys have spent time over the summer playing in junior tournaments, and I've encouraged them because any time they can play competitively, it's going to help them,” Kittanning coach Bud Stanley said.
Of the top five in the lineup, No. 1 player Cole Davis leads with a 38.1 average, which is a four-shot drop from his average in 2012.
Noah Kunst's 39.5 also is a four-shot drop, while Christian Miller's average of 41.5 represents a total that is five shots better than last year.
Noah Spang averages 40.8, and Nathan Falchetti averages 45.8 this year — both three-shot improvements — and the sixth spot in the lineup has been shared this season by sophomore Nick Long (44.7), junior Jeremy Yackmack (46.0) and sophomore Coby Toy (48.0).
The drop in scores is a good sign for a team that missed last year's WPIAL Class AA team final by finishing 10 shots behind Winchester Thurston for the final qualifying spot, but even better for the team's scoring is the balance between all six players in the lineup.
“We like to keep five scores under 45 in every match,” Davis said. “Normally, if a guy has a bad day, there's always someone right there to fill in for him with a low score.”
“We've been consistent doing that (five scores under 45), and we've already had two team scores under 200 this year,” Stanley said. “We haven't really had an instance yet where we all have a bad day at the same time.”
The drop in scores also shapes up well heading into the individual sectional tournament coming up on Monday.
Kunst was the only one of Kittanning's current players to reach the WPIAL tournament last year, along with graduated senior Jordan Klodowski.
With an 18-hole target score usually set in the low 80s at sectionals, chances are good the Wildcats could have three or more players advance this year.
“Right now, I think we have a good chance to take at least three or four to the next (individual) round,” Davis said.
But the Wildcats' biggest goals are team-oriented. With six more section matches to play, those are the first priority.
After reaching that goal, the Wildcats hope the additional work the players have put in over summer pays off in the form of a spot in the WPIAL team final.
“Our first goal is to go undefeated in the section, and then hopefully move on in the playoffs,” Davis said.
“We have a dedicated team that practices almost every day except for match days. Over summer, we played 27, 36 holes a day. We basically live out here (at the golf course).”