Freeport golfers take third place at WPIAL championship
Although they didn't get medals — but pleaded to their coach to find them some afterward — Freeport's golfers were thrilled to take the bronze at Cedarbrook's Gold golf course Thursday.
The Yellowjackets tied for fourth in the WPIAL Class AA championship last season and lost several key players to graduation, so jumping a spot on the leaderboard was a bonus.
Freeport got a 6-over-par 78 from senior Cole Hepler on the way to a 418 total and a third-place finish.
“Experience is always helpful,” Freeport coach Joe Sprumont said. “Cole and (sophomore) Audrey (Clawson) were here last year and you could see they were more relaxed. We lost four of our top six (to graduation) but they still set high goals. The expectations didn't change.”
Clawson, in better form following treatment and rest from a broken finger, shot 82 and sophomore Mickey Frazetta added 84.
“I think it was easier this time,” Hepler said. “I knew the course better. I felt like everything clicked for me out there.”
Kittanning will view its first-ever trip to the finals as a learning experience. The Wildcats finished fifth out of six teams, but the number 11 stood out more on a scoresheet next to players' names.
Their entire lineup consists of juniors. That means they plan to be back next fall, but won't need a tour guide.
“The kids might have been a little amazed by the situation; the atmosphere may have been a little much,” Kittanning coach Bud Stanley said. “One of them said, ‘This is the real thing,' or something to that effect. But this was good for us. We're old-fashioned. Our plan all through this playoff run has been to be ourselves. Don't try to be something you're not. We stuck to that.”
Noah Kunst was Kittanning's medalist with an 81, and Christian Miller and Noah Spang followed with 85s.
“You always feel like you have a chance,” Kunst said. “We just wanted to come in here and play well. We knew if we shot our averages we could maybe do something.
“I like the experience we were able to get here. Next year, everyone will know what to expect and won't be nearly as nervous.”
Kittanning finished unbeaten in Section 1-AA and beat Freeport twice. Freeport got the better of the Wildcats this time — not that the coaches made it a priority to take down their counterparts. After all, the teams have a friendly rivalry.
“Not at all,” Stanley said of comparing scores with Freeport. “These kids are all close. It was nice to see both teams here.”
The finals put a cap on a successful season for both teams.
“It was a fun, relaxing season,” Hepler said. “I am a hockey player and golf season is much different for me. It was a really fun year.”
When Hepler was a junior, he talked about returning to the championship. Kittanning's coach and players are doing the same.
“We'd love to get back here and finish strong,” Stanley said. “The seniors would like nothing more.”
Sewickley Academy won the Class AA title, edging Burgettstown, 398-408. Those teams flip-flopped their order on the leaderboard this year after Burgettstown won in 2012.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.