Greensburg Salem’s Oberdorf finds golf game

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Sunday, October 15, 2017 | 6:45 PM


A big-swinging third baseman who can hit for average and power, Jack Oberdorf played 80 baseball games over the summer.

He even missed a golf tryout in late August because of a game. His swing was grooved firmly into baseball form and golf sat on the shelf.

High school golf season beckoned, however, and Oberdorf had to switch gears.

“I wasn't sure where my golf game would be,” said Oberdorf, a junior at Greensburg Salem. “I wasn't sure if I'd be able to break 40 (for nine holes).”

He wiped the cobwebs off his irons, shot 37 in his first tryout and has put together his best WPIAL season since.

“I just hit balls every night to try and get it back,” he said.

The Golden Lions' king of swing has plenty of game in both sports. Baseball is his first love and likely ticket to college — he's been playing since kindergarten. But golf has been pleasantly rewarding for him since he took his first swipe at a stationary ball in middle school.

Oberdorf finished tied for ninth at the WPIAL Class AAA championship to qualify for his first PIAA Western Regional tournament Monday at Tom's Run Golf Course in Blairsville.

If he can carve out a top-12 finish at the regional, he will move on to his first PIAA championship. Last year, he did not make it past the WPIAL semifinal round.

Oberdorf went from hitting gap-finding doubles to fairway-splitting drives — long drives, as in well over 300 yards. Sports like baseball and hockey tend to translate well to golf with mechanics and hand-eye coordination. Oberdorf is no exception.

He pounds the ball. But a sharpened short game allowed him to win the Section 1 title with a 72 and shoot 73 to tie for fourth in the semifinals at The Links at Spring Church, a layout he and his driver treated like an accordion.

He said he hit the ball poorly in the WPIAL finals at Nemacolin Country Club but still managed a 77 to advance. A 78 might have landed him in a playoff and cost him a spot in the finals.

At Nemacolin, he did all he could to qualify, nearly making a hole-in-one on No. 16, and sticking a wedge to a few feet on No. 18. He missed the latter putt, but fortunately for him, it didn't matter.

“At the beginning of the year, I was hitting that baseball slice but I have developed a draw,” Oberdorf said. “I practice at Totteridge with my grandpap (Jim Alcorn) a lot. It's all about rotation.”

Sports run in his family. His sisters, Claire and Jayne, have been standouts on the Marist softball team, and Claire also plays basketball in college. Longtime Leechburg softball coach Jim Oberdorf is his cousin.

Jack has interest from Marist baseball, a Division I program, as well as Division II West Liberty. He hit .431 last season for Greensburg Salem, with 22 hits and 14 runs scored. He'll be one of the county's top returning players in the spring.

Some think he could play college golf.

“He is a really talented ball-striker,” said Hannastown golf professional Craig Mankins, who has worked with Oberdorf on his short game but has seen his power off the tee. “It's his hand-eye coordination. He is crazy long. He has that gift to be able to drive the golf ball that many people don't have. If he focused full-time on golf, he might be playing that at the next level.”

It has been a while since a golfer from Greensburg Salem made noise in the postseason. Paul Balest is the school's only golf champion. He won in 1983.

The Golden Lions boys team won a WPIAL championship in 1997.

Oberdorf said the school framed his section-champion certificate for the trophy case.

“It's pretty cool to be able to represent my school this way,” Oberdorf said. “Our athletic director (Lynn Jobe) was really nice about wanting to recognize what I did.”

“Jack has a good head on his shoulders and handles the pressure well,” Greensburg Salem golf coach Eric Doran said. “He was a great teammate this season. Several times he went out of his way to work on some basic skills with other players. His teammates are really proud of what he has accomplished so far.”

So far. Like one of his drives.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

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