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Superstitions follow golfers into PIAAs

| Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, 12:22 a.m.
Valley's Bill Clark celebrates after chipping for birdie on the fourth hole during the PIAA Western Regional golf tournament at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Leechburg junior Matt Barto tees off on the seventh hole during the WPIAL Class AA individual finals at Youghiogheny Country Club in September 2012. Ronald Vezzani Jr. | for the Valley News Dispatch
Freeport's Audrey Clawson competes in the girls WPIAL Class AA individual championship at 3 Lakes Golf Course in Penn Hills on Oct. 1, 2012. Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Kittanning's Jordan Klodowski putts during the PIAA Western Regional golf tournament at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville on Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review

Golfers can be just as superstitious as baseball players, if not moreso.

It could be a lucky ball marker — a coin with a memorable year — or a certain way of labeling a golf ball that puts a player's mind at ease.

Or, maybe it's an old, rusted putter that finds a home in the bag because it starts mysteriously rolling in knee-knocking four-footers.

Bottom line: If it works, keep using it.

For Leechburg junior Matt Barto, magic came in the form of a ... bull frog?

“I love frogs and reptiles; one time I found a turtle on the course and I put it in my cart until the end of the round,” said Barto, one of four local players competing Monday and Tuesday in the 36-hole PIAA championships at Heritage Hills in York.

Last Monday, Barto saw a bull frog between holes 13 and 14 at Tom's Run Golf Course during the PIAA West Region qualfier.

He touched the frog and proceeded to birdie three of the next five holes on the way to a 72 to advance to his second PIAA championship.

“I touched it then birdied the next hole; I was the only one to birdie that hole,” said Barto, who only uses golf balls with the No. 1 on them. “I just started playing really well after that. It was pure coincidence, but I admit, I am superstitious.”

Barto was scouring the web this week looking for a frog headcover.

“I stay regimented in what I do,” he said. “If I go to the range, I make sure that, if I hit two or three good shots, I put that club away immediately. If I only hit 15 balls, I'm ready.”

Valley senior Bill Clark, the only Alle-Kiski state qualifier in Class AAA, also has some quirky habits. He is a baseball player, so it seemed natural to carry those habits over to golf.

“I am very superstitious,” Clark said. “I have to mark my ball with a quarter, heads-up. And I have started to pop my collar. I've been doing that since regionals. I wear the same Valley hat and same glove.

“I just want to be loose and have fun with (states).”

Barto is having his finest prep season. After winning his third straight section title, he won the WPIAL championship and added the runner-up at regionals. Now, his sights are on a state title.

For the first time, the PIAA will crown a separate Class AA champion.

“I feel a lot more comfortable this year,” he said. “Last year, I was antsy and overwhelmed. My whole goal was to make states. I got so caught up in each round. I got burned out and lost my energy. This year, I am more comfortable with the pressure.”

Clark tied for low honors in sectionals, tied for 12th at the WPIAL finals and tied for seventh at regionals.

“I feel like I can do some good things if I am putting well,” Clark said. “I putted well at Tom's Run so, hopefully, that can continue.”

Kittanning senior Jordan Klodowski also will compete in Class AA, as will Freeport's Audrey Clawson. A freshman, Clawson is in the girls' field. She is the second girl from Freeport to qualify for the state tournament, joining Kelsey Harned (2000).

Klodowski is the first from Kittanning to advance this far.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bbeckner@tribweb.com.

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