Baldwin golf coach Stanko honored with school HOF nod
Baldwin golf coach Jim Stanko recently announced his retirement after 25 years leading the program. He leaves a legacy of success, and some big shoes to fill.
Last Friday, Stanko was inducted into the Baldwin High School Hall of Fame, during a ceremony held on the field prior to the Fighting Highlanders' football game.
Stanko was honored for his many coaching accomplishments at Baldwin. His 367 career wins represent the most wins of any coach in the school history.
He also won eight section championships and was runner-up 10 times. While he was head coach, there were two WPIAL individual golf champions at Baldwin.
Stanko also was the mastermind behind the construction of Baldwin's indoor golf facility, located in the Wallace building. The facility is open to the community and has helped the Baldwin golfers hone their skills year-round.
Stanko, 70, lives in Bethel Park. But, he attended Baldwin-Whitehall schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, and was a member of the Baldwin golf team in high school.
“I wasn't a star,” Stanko said. “I got better as I got older.”
Stanko went on to play golf at Waynesburg College, winning five tournaments while there.
He won 35 amateur tournaments before settling into his teaching career in the Baldwin-Whitehall School District. Stanko taught fifth- and sixth-grade for 32 years, retiring in 1997.
A highlight of Stanko's 25-year coaching career was building the Baldwin golf facility. It opened in the Wallace building in 1990 with just a net and a hitting mat.
But it became a labor of love, and with the help of more than $80,000 in state grants, the golf facility has grown and improved dramatically, Stanko said.
“It's made a tremendous impact on the Baldwin golf program,” Stanko said. “The kids practice there on their own all winter long.”
The golf facility also has helped develop the skills of Special Olympics athletes over the years.
Early on, Stanko arranged weekly practice time for the Special Olympics athletes. They continue to use the facility weekly.
Two Special Olympics golfers have gone on to world championships thanks, in part, to their access to the golf room.
Stanko always wanted to be sure his team was competitive, but winning a WPIAL or PIAA team championship never was a goal for him.
“I just wanted to get kids involved and give them a sport they could play their whole lives,” Stanko said. “Here I am an old man and I still play two, three times a week.”
Though he hasn't shot his age yet, Stanko is hopeful.
“Maybe when I'm 95,” he said, with a laugh. “I shot 71 earlier this year, but I'm not as consistent as I used to be. There are a lot more variables involved now that I'm older.”
Stanko was honored by his induction into the hall of fame, and enjoyed the reception that preceded the on-field ceremony. He invited a large group of friends to be there, including some golf facility regulars. They included his wife, Sue, members of the Ferrante and Oiler families, and Dave Adrulonis, Jerry Bazin, Dave Skladany, Bob Kern, Bob Selara and Cindy Leaf.
At the start of the week, this final coaching season was not quite over for Stanko, who had plans to be at the PIAA regional qualifier at Tom's Run Golf Course with Baldwin senior Zack Taylor.
The top 12 finishers at Tom's Run advance to play in the PIAA championships at Heritage Hills Golf Course in York, Pa. on Monday and Tuesday.
“I hope Zack does well. It would be nice to end on a high note,” Stanko said.
Baldwin's's track and field, soccer, football and golf programs were represented at this year's hall of fame induction ceremony held Friday at Baldwin Stadium.
The inductees were the 2007 WPIAL champion and PIAA runner-up 3,200-meter relay unit, consisting of David Adley, Brandon Hahn, T.J. Hobart and Chris Wolfe; 2006 all-state soccer player Reuben Jolo; 2006 Big 33 Classic all-star football game selection Jason Pinkston; 2005 PIAA and WPIAL discus champion Jordan Veney; and Stanko, who compiled a career record of 376-107, with a 78 percent winning percentage.
Stanko competed against 52 different schools throughout his career and has a winning record against 51 of them.
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.