Leechburg's Barto defends WPIAL Class AA golf title
TribLIVE Sports Videos
His round complete, a fidgety Matt Barto stood on the patio at sun-splashed Sewickley Heights Golf Club and twisted open a cool drink.
His beverage of choice? An Arnold Palmer Iced Tea. Most appropriate for the Leechburg senior, who defended his WPIAL Class AA championship Wednesday to join an elite group of repeat champions that includes Palmer.
Latrobe's finest, Palmer won titles in 1946 and '47.
“That's stupid silly to think of me in the same category as him,” said Barto, who secured his second title with a birdie putt on the first sudden-death playoff hole against Charleroi senior Gunnar Riley. “My iron play was horrible today, but I putted great. It was like I was in a weird trance on the greens. I don't think I have ever rolled it this good. That's probably the reason I broke 80.”
Barto is the first WPIAL repeat winner since Pine-Richland's Mike Van Sickle in 2003-04 and the first in Class AA since the league began awarding champs in each class in 2010. He matched early clubhouse leader Riley with a 3-over-par 75, and the pair headed to the 10th tee shortly after their rounds for the playoff.
Barto hit the left side of the fairway on the 390-yard par 4, knocked his 118-yard approach with a 52-degree wedge to 7 feet and holed the putt.
Riley's approach went slightly over the green, forcing him to chip on for his third. He missed his par putt.
Barto was greeted with hugs and high-fives from family members and his coach when he circled back on No. 10.
“I was 0 for 7 in playoffs coming in, so I didn't know what to expect,” said Barto, who had nine one-putts in his round. “The fact that I won with a birdie really sits well with me. I hit a 50-yard pull off the tee but hit an incredible wedge shot.”
Barto helped to start a golf program at Leechburg and will leave an indelible mark.
“It's a credit to how hard he works and how competitive he is,” Leechburg coach Heath Shimer said. “He'll hit a ton of golf balls each day and then send me pictures of all of his divots.”
Riley gave credit to Barto, the ninth repeat champ.
“He's a tough player,” Riley said. “Once he hit it to 7 feet, I knew I had to chip in. I came in second, so I can't complain.”
Barto, known for his accuracy, missed fairways and found bunkers but limited the damage with his putter.
The putter couldn't save him, however, from a bee that stung him on the back of the neck.
“It was a little of everything out there,” Barto said. “A bee flew into my collar on No. 15, and when I went to swat it away, it stung me. That's the second time that's happened to me in a round. Crazy.”
Burgettstown sophomore Cody Dobbin was third with a 77, and his teammate, senior Owen Miller, tied Sewickley Academy senior Keenan Hickton for fourth at 78.
Serra Catholic senior Max Kaminsky and junior Will Robinson of Winchester-Thurston were sixth at 79.
Kaminsky, a WPIAL champion as a freshman, played in Barto's threesome and shot 43-36.
“All the bees go to Barto, I guess, because he's the best player and they want to watch him play or attack him,” Kaminsky said with a laugh. “His putter really fired him up out there.”
The top 16 advance to the PIAA West Regional Tournament Oct. 16 at Tom's Run Golf Course. That event feeds into the PIAA tournament, where Barto finished second last fall.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Lubrani scorches Duck Hollow in qualifier
- Quaker Valley golf on the rise
- Valley senior Licata, 4 from Kittanning advance out of Section 1-AA boys golf qualifier
- 3 Franklin Regional golfers advance in WPIAL tourney