New classification, same faces for Kittanning boys golf
No matter the year or the experience level of his golfers, Kittanning boys coach Bud Stanley delivers the same message: Manage the course, and trust smarts over strength.
This season's team might receive a few extra reminders, though, as Kittanning moves down to Class AA for the first time and visits unfamiliar courses.
A balanced mix of seniors and sophomores will try to get the Wildcats back in the WPIAL postseason after missing out in 2011. Kittanning did not lose a starter to graduation, but its top six golfers need to adjust to a new competitive landscape.
“The big thing we've been working on this year is playing smarter,” Stanley said. “We lost a number of matches close last year, and we started three freshmen. So hopefully those guys gaining that playing experience will help.”
During the summer, Stanley made sure his golfers experienced the home course of each Section 1-AA opponent —Apollo-Ridge, Burrell, Ford City, Leechburg and West Shamokin. He'll soon know whether the Wildcats took mental notes about their mistakes. Section play begins next week.
“Knowing what's up ahead or not knowing what's up ahead of you is a concern,” Stanley said. “Hopefully, when the time comes, they'll have some thoughts in their mind as far as how to play a hole, what to do and what not to do.”
Seniors Jordan Klodowski and Evan Cravener are the steadiest scorers for Kittanning. They return after serving as the Nos. 1 and 2 golfers a season ago. Klodowski expects to shoot in the mid-30s; Cravener aims to keep his average in the high 30s.
“I'm making sure that, when I miss a shot, it doesn't really penalize me,” Klodowski said. “I'm trying to minimize my mistakes.”
Senior Nathan Watt, the No. 5 or 6 golfer in the lineup, is the vocal leader and delivers scores in the mid- to high-40s.
“It's a good feeling to know we didn't lose anyone from last year,” Watt said. “Moving down a (classification) is definitely going to be a game-changer for our team. ... The expectation is definitely to win a section title.”
Sophomores Cole Davis, Noah Kunst and Noah Spang anticipate the knowledge gained as freshman starters will guide them to more success this year. All three hope to shoot in the low 40s.
“We just needed to learn to score better,” Spang said. “Now it's easier. We make the right decisions instead of doing the ‘hero shots,' as Mr. Stanley likes to call them.”
Said Kunst: “Last year, I was just used to messing around with my friends and stuff. But this year, I've really got to try and keep my score low.”
That the Wildcats want to manage their games rather than attack the course without caution is a relief for Stanley, who recognizes the young golfers' temptations to swing away without thinking.
“I think it's come through experience that they've learned that,” he said. “Keep the ball in play. Learn how to hit irons and putt, and you'll score. … We want to post five scores below 45 and, if we can do that, we'll be competitive with everyone.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1321.