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Calmer Paunovich takes aim at WPIAL golf final

| Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013, 10:40 p.m.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area's Tyler Paunovich watches an approach shot into the 11th green at Pittsburgh Field Club during WPIAL Sectional qualifying on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area's Tyler Paunovich hits an approach shot into the 11th green at Pittsburgh Field Club during WPIAL sectional qualifying on Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013.

Tyler Paunovich never has been a club-thrower, but he admits his aggravation has gotten the best of him on the golf course.

“When you get mad, you play worse,” he said.

These days, however, the Kiski Area senior plays the game with a much more level-headed demeanor. The bad shots don't seem to matter as much, and the next shot can fix everything.

“It all has to do with my mindset,” said Paunovich, who has been one of the area's most consistent players this season. “I have matured a lot on the course; I don't get mad as easily. Before, any bad shot and I'd get out of the round, especially if I missed putts. Now, I am a lot more relaxed.”

If all goes as planned Tuesday, Paunovich will get to play in his first WPIAL tournament. He is Kiski Area's lone representative in the Class AAA semifinal set to begin at 9 a.m. at Hannastown Golf Club.

The top 12 finishers advance to the WPIAL championship Oct. 2 at Diamond Run Golf Club. The top 14 finishers there qualify for the PIAA Western Regional Tournament Oct. 15 at Tom's Run Golf Course.

Paunovich said an example of his new attitude came in a match earlier this season at Saxon Golf Course. He was 2-over-par after two holes but collected himself and finished with a 34.

“He has the shortest memory of any golfer I've had, meaning he recovers so well after a bad shot. He's never rattled,” Kiski Area coach Matt Stasko said. “This is one of the best qualities a golfer can have in my opinion. Talent doesn't hurt either, which he has in spades.”

Paunovich was just 6-over through his first 11 matches this season and is averaging 38 for nine holes.

He shot 7-over 78 at the Section 4-AAA qualifier at Pittsburgh Field Club.

“I don't have to pressure myself,” he said. “My mindset is that if I drive it well and get the putter going, too, I am a little more confident.”

The medalist at the Section 4 qualifier with a 1-under 70 was Fox Chapel senior Patrick Sheerer, who is one of five qualfiers from his team playing at Hannastown.

Sheerer is seeking his first trip to the WPIAL tournament after making it this far as a junior.

“I feel like I am peaking at the right time,” he said. “I have been working on my game a lot at the range, and my swing started to click.”

Fox Chapel is 10-0 and could be on pace to win a team championship. But players who have moved on in the individual postseason have to switch back and forth from team to individual play.

“One day you try to make your number and you worry about yourself, and the next you're back with the team,” Sheerer said.

Sheerer is getting Division I college attention from several schools, including Bucknell, Cornell, Fordham, James Madison and Ohio. Division III Franklin & Marshall also likes his game.

Although it is never short on qualifiers, Fox Chapel hasn't had an individual boys golf champion since Adam Hofmann in 2006.

Plum's Andrew Reynolds is another local player to watch in the semis. He will be at the tournament at Youghiogheny Country Club. A junior, Reynolds will be looking for his second trip to the WPIAL finals. He placed 29th last season at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

Plum's Adam Stawski was the last local player to win a WPIAL title (2008) from the larger-school classification.

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