True test coming for Kittanning golfers in WPIAL semifinals
The greatest gauge of the Kittanning boys' golf team's potential as a first-time Class AA program begins Tuesday morning at Donegal Highlands Golf Course.
Kittanning, a section champion for the second time in three seasons and first time as a Class AA school, enters one of two WPIAL team semifinals with a sophomore-laden lineup that lost just one match during the regular season. The Wildcats (11-1, 9-1 in Section 1-AA) are in the team postseason for just the second time, but they're optimistic they can finish in the top three at the 10-team semifinal to earn a spot in the finals Thursday at Cedarbrook Golf Course.
“I crunched some numbers, and one school stands above everybody else, and that's Sewickley Academy,” Kittanning coach Bud Stanley said. “But I think we're right there in the mix with the rest of the teams.”
Confidence among the Wildcats existed two years ago when they competed in a Class AAA semifinal at Norvelt Golf Club. But Kittanning finished last among eight teams with a score of 442.
“Being in the playoffs is not going to change who we are,” Stanley said. “I think some of our guys were just a bit awestruck because we'd never been there before. … This year, we're just trying to look at it as another match.”
Seniors Jordan Klodowski and Evan Cravener learned as sophomores that playoff matches are not the same as any other. In the regular season, teammates pair together during rounds. In the postseason, groups consist of golfers from different squads.
“It feels a lot like individual qualifiers,” said Klodowski, who shot an 81 at Norvelt to lead the Wildcats. “You just don't really have anyone to talk to, not just for advice, but to joke around.
“It might be a little more difficult because you don't know how anyone else on the team is doing.”
Cravener, who shot 91 two years ago, noted that he and Klodowski have as much incentive as any of Wildcat to perform well. Their high school careers depend on strong showings. But he considers the team's sophomore starters — Cole Davis, Noah Kunst, Noah Spang and Christian Miller — no less eager to extend this season.
“I think they're getting almost a little too excited and anxious to play,” Cravener said.
The Wildcats will visit Donegal Highlands for the first time Monday. Their one practice round might not provide them with an abundance of course knowledge. But it's their only opportunity to better understand the par-72, 6,370-yard layout that sits more than 60 miles south in Acme.
No Section 1 team has advanced to the finals since 1999, when St. Joseph — now in Section 3 — made the cut.
“If we go out and shoot two 189s,” Klodowski said, referring to Kittanning's low score of the season, “I find it very hard to believe we wouldn't make it through.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1303.