Kittanning golf team welcomes talented freshmen
For years, Kittanning boys golf coach Bud Stanley has watched Jordan Klodowski taking swings on the course at Kittanning Country Club and has eagerly anticipated the day the promising young golfer would be old enough to play in high school.
His wait is over.
Stanley not only has Klodowski joining his team, but Evan Cravener, another incoming freshman with a track record of success at the junior level, will tee up for the Wildcats this fall.
Both of the 14-year-olds will be among the team's starting six in today's season opener against Highlands, and their coach is excited about their varsity debuts.
"It's encouraging when you have kids like that coming up and they're challenging for starting time," Stanley said. "They both definitely have potential."
Stanley hopes his new players will have less of a learning curve than the average freshmen. He said many first-year high school golfers have never played competitively, and as a result, they're not used to the pressure situations that inevitably arise.
"Playing competitively is a lot different than going out with your friends," Stanley said.
Klodowski and Cravener, however, each bring a good deal of experience in tournament play. Both golfers have played in the North East Junior Golf Tour, and Klodowski picked up a pair of wins on the King's Family Restaurants junior golf series this summer.
"(The wins) definitely gave me a lot of confidence," said Klodowski, who won at Hickory Heights Golf Club and Greenville Country Club. "It's nice to know I can compete with everybody else."
Cravener was playing competitively for the first time this summer, but he was a quick learner, winning a junior tournament in Buffalo earlier this month.
"I needed to get the feeling of competitive golf, and how it would be in matches in high school," said Cravener, who has previously played strictly with friends and family members. "I came in second two other times (this summer), but that was my first win. It felt pretty good to finally get one."
Cravener's roots in golf stretch back to when he was 2, when his grandfather would take him to the driving range for some practice swings, and Klodowski's history in the game is long, too. He got his first set of clubs when he was 6.
"I've always been pretty good at (golf)," Klodowski said. "It's challenging, and I like that."
Both players are cautiously optimistic about how they'll perform this season and have set some achievable goals. Klodowski said he'd like to reach qualifiers, and Cravener said he wants to become a permanent member of the team's starting six.
Klodowski's brother, Nick, a 2006 Kittanning graduate and former Wildcats golfer, has given some advice to his little brother that Cravener can probably use as well.
"He pretty much told me to just relax and play your own game, and don't worry about anyone else," Klodowski recalled.
"Hopefully, (high school) will be a good experience, it'll go well, and I'll get looked at by some colleges."