WPIAL Alum Q&A – Matt Barto

Monday, October 26, 2015 | 12:19 PM

Over the past several weeks, the WPIAL Alum Q&A has focused on athletes who excel in a variety of fall sports, including football, soccer, girls’ volleyball and tennis. For this week’s edition, golf comes to the forefront, with the spotlight on former Leechburg High School champion Matt Barto.

In addition to capturing the section championship in all four years at Leechburg, Barto captured the Class AA Individual Championship in both his junior and senior years with the Blue Devils. In 2012, Barto shot a one-over 73 at Youghiogheny Country Club to capture the title, and the following year, he won in a playoff after shooting a round of 75 at Sewickley Heights Golf Club.

He achieved equally-impressive accomplishments in the classroom in high school, as he earned the distinction of valedictorian honors, while also serving as the president of the National Honors Society.

Following high school, Barto continued his academic and athletic pursuits at Gannon University. As a freshman for the Golden Knights, he made an immediate impact. He was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) freshman of the year, and won the conference individual championship.

Barto also garnered a spot in a national tournament, as he qualified for the NCAA Division II National Championship.

In his sophomore campaign, Barto again has been one of the best performers for his team, and will look to keep up that strong play when the season resumes in the spring.

Matt kindly answered several questions that take a look into his golf career, as well as his strenuous academic schedule. He also provided some words of advice to novice golfers, as well as revealed a little-known fact about his life.

Q: You had a very successful freshman season at Gannon University. How were you able to translate your success from high school so quickly to the collegiate level?

A: Transitioning from high school to college was seamless because I did not really think about it. I knew I had a good high school career and figured that college golf would just be a continuation of getting better and better. 

Q: What were your emotions after winning multiple individual championships, especially the PSAC Championship?

A: I actually only won two tournaments because I lost in a playoff when I shot 67 at Peek’n’Peak lower. My emotions after winning PSACs were all over the place. I finished the regulation round very poorly, ripped my hat in pieces, and meditated in the parking lot for 20 minutes because I was so frustrated that I choked. However, when I knew I was in a playoff, I buckled down, drove it down the middle, found the green, and two-putted from 15 feet for the win. I went from a severe low to one of the highest feelings of achievement I have ever experienced.

Q: What do you believe is the strongest facet of your game? 

A: I would normally say my putting is the strongest facet of my game, but my putter has not comprehended at any point so far my sophomore season. Last year as a freshman, that’s how I got it done. I saved lots of pars and converted the birds when I needed. Keeping the ball in front of me and in play is also a strong suit of mine.

Q:  In what area have you improved the most since graduating high school?

A: Watching me play now is no different than two or three years ago besides that I manage my game better and learn to get the ball in the hole. 

Q: How does the college golf season works, and how have you prepared for what is basically two seasons each school year?

A: Dealing with both school and golf is the biggest struggle when trying to properly prepare myself. I study mechanical engineering, so my workload gets hefty sometimes and I realize it’s important to sometimes take a break and practice because golf is a huge responsibility of mine. I try not to get caught up in either school or golf too much and balance them pretty well. The fact that golf is two seasons just means I’m busy two-thirds of the year instead of one-third like high school. But it’s not so bad.

Q: What led to you choosing Gannon?

A: I always wanted to play Division I golf, but the contacts and offers were not really coming my way to make that happen. At Gannon, I knew I could study engineering, not be too far from home, and also succeed more at the Division II level with my spot on the team basically secured. I have found that I can succeed at the Division II level, so I am pleased with how things turned out.

Q: What were some of your best experiences at Leechburg?

A: My best experiences at Leechburg include gym with my friends, going to prom three times, being a homecoming court escort, messing around and being a nerd in my six-person Physics 2 class, and obviously WPIAL and PIAA golf.

Q: Obviously as valedictorian, studies were a major focus for you. How were you able to accomplish such high achievements in both academics and athletics at the same time?

A: I am a try hard in school and golf, so for me it comes naturally. Studying, practicing, and putting time into things is part of my nature because I know that I’m not a genius or a prodigy. I need to work hard at things to keep up with the world.

Q: What is your favorite course that you have ever played?

A: A couple of my favorite courses I’ve played are St. Clair Country Club and the Ohio State Scarlet Course. Tree-lined, fast greens, decent bunkering, slight undulations- that’s the sort of golf I like to play.

Q: Who is your favorite golfer, either currently or all time?

A: My favorite golfer is between Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, and Justin Rose. I honestly can’t pick because I love all three. They are great guys with awesome talents.

Q: What is the best round you’ve ever shot?

A: I have shot three 66’s before, but my best round I’ve played was probably when I shot 70 at the final round at regionals to advance to nationals. I played so well and the round was so clutch because I needed a low number.

Q: What is the best piece of advice for a novice golfer hoping to improve his or her score?

A: Every golfer is different, but a simple way to get better is to think while you are playing and grind over your shots.

 Q: What is your favorite food?

A: I cannot pick a favorite food because I am a total foodie. I enjoy Italian food the most though, particularly a good lasagna.

 Q: Do you have a favorite TV show or movie?

A: My favorite TV show is either South Park or Curb Your Enthusiasm. Both are absolutely hilarious and completely ruthless, and I cannot get enough of them.

Q: What’s a little known fact about you?

A: A little known fact about myself is that I did not learn how to ride a bike until I was in 7th grade. I never liked riding bikes when I was little, so I rode scooters and just never learned how to ride a bike.

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