West Xtra: Golfer's name is Shank, but it's not often that he does
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A Western Beaver High School graduate and soon-to-be La Roche College golfer, Nolan Shank isn't one to get rattled easily.
Not when he makes a bad shot.
Not when a communication error gets him disqualified from the final tournament of his high school career.
Not when people good-naturedly make fun of his surname.
After all, judging by his results on the golf course, "Shank" is a most inapt monicker for a guy who has proven himself to be a pretty darn good golfer.
"Oh, I hear it every time I golf," Shank said of the jokes about "shanking" shots into the woods, for example. "Every time.
"I'm not sick of it. I like it. Every time I hear it, it's funny."
Shank was one of the top golfers in the 17-18 age group of the Kings Restaurants Tri-State PGA Junior Golf Tour this summer. His schedule permitted him to enter only six of the tour's 18 events, but he still ranked fourth in points on the tour with 187.
Shank was a WPIAL tournament qualifier last fall, and he is about to embark on his freshman year at La Roche, where he will play for the golf team.
"He's a very good golfer, and what I like about him is he doesn't let things bother him," said Western Beaver golf coach Chris Kuzma. "If he makes a bad shot, he just moves on and thinks, 'How can I make the best of this situation?' He doesn't have a tendency to get down after a bad shot and let it ruin his game.
"And he is a disciplined golfer; he practices a lot. He'll practice his shots, and out of all the golfers I've had, he's the one who worked the most on his own."
When Shank plays now, it's often with friends at Blackhawk Golf Course near Beaver Falls. He works at Seven Oaks Country Club near Beaver, so he will play there, too.
But much of Shank's formative years on a golf course were at Deer Trails Country Club in Industry.
"A lot of the guys out there, they helped me throughout my younger golf career," Shank said.
Deer Trails is where Western Beaver plays its home matches. During high school, Shank set the school record for low-round score, 29. He was a two-time WPIAL Division II championship qualifier (he also was a WPIAL semifinalist in 2009), finishing as high as 28th his junior year.
Shank never got the chance to see where he could finish among the WPIAL's best in Division II last year. He was disqualified for using an illegal range finder.
"The starter told me that I was allowed to use it, and then after the round was over, they said I wasn't allowed to use it and I got disqualified," Shank said. "It was just unfortunate, I guess."
Just like he does after a poor shot in which he, er, shanks a ball onto the fairway next to him, Shank moved on quickly from the disappointment of the WPIAL ruling.
"You know, the first few days it was tough, but I just put it behind me and just got back to my game and got ready for all my Kings events during the summer to get ready for college golf," Shank said. "I didn't let it bother me."
Shank has been coached by Jim Cichra at Robert Morris University and Craig Morris at Ironwood Golf Center.
At La Roche, he will play under coach Jim Tinkey and alongside friends such as Jared Vetica of Ellwood City. He is starting out as an undeclared major but said he is considering accounting.
"I'm definitely excited to go there," Shank said. "The first tournament is the first week of school, so I'm looking forward to it.
"I know a bunch of the guys on the team personally. It will be a fun year, and I hope to accomplish maybe rookie of the year or help the team win a conference championship. I just want to have a good first year of college."
First Published August 16, 2012 12:00 am