Shaler golfer still working after playing in state championships

Sunday, October 22, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Chris Catanese chuckled when he got the notification on his phone from Jacob Crissman’s parents.

The Shaler junior golfer hadn’t stopped working after he finished playing the Penn State Blue Course at the PIAA Class 3A championships. After Crissman’s final round, he stuck around and drove some balls.

Then, when Crissman got home the next day, his parents filmed him hitting golf balls in the backyard. Crissman, who finished the event in a tie for 37th with a 7-over par 151, wanted to try to correct his swing.

“It wasn’t the finish I wanted,” Crissman said. “The swing felt off. I wanted to get it back on track. I wanted to hit the ball better.”

Crissman became the first Shaler golfer to qualify for the state tournament in over 15 years. It was a good year overall for the WPIAL in golf. Butler’s Hunter Swidzinski won the PIAA crown in a playoff with Penn-Trafford’s Nick Turkowski and Plum’s Wes Lorish. Peters Township’s Colton Lusk tied for fourth place.

Titans coach Chris Catanese said he can see Crissman challenging for a higher finish as a senior.

“After his second round at states, he hit two full buckets of balls,” Catanese said. “He chipped and putted. He puts the time and effort in. He really wants to get better.”

Crissman has enjoyed having a team to push him along. During the Happy Valley Invitational early in the season, Crissman shot a 66 at the same course as the state championship to help the Titans win the team title.

Shaler shared the section championship with Fox Chapel. During the sectional qualifiers for WPIALs, the Titans had six golfers qualify. Crissman was one of three Shaler golfers — along with Jake Skerlong and Colby Weber — to compete in the WPIAL finals. Crissman placed sixth at WPIAL to earn his state bid.

When competing at states, Crissman said it was weird to not have at least one teammate playing with him.

“With my team there, I play more comfortably,” Crissman said. “I feel like I have support. They keep me from feeling more nervous. Without my team there, I had to keep myself calm.”

Crissman plans to keep working to get better.

Catanese believes the opportunity to play at the state championships helped Crissman get an idea of what he needs to do to win. Now all Crissman has to do is put the time in to make his way back to states next year.

“I think it was a little more eye-opening for him to see how far those guys hit the ball down the fairway,” Catanese said. “He will want to add strength and add some distance to his drive. He saw the drivers who drove the ball further had an advantage playing a club or two less to the green. He needs to add 10 or 15 yards to his drive to compete at the highest level.”


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