IN FULL SWING

Pittston Area’s Craig look­ing for post­sea­son run

The Citizens' Voice - - VARSITY VOICE - BY MATT BUFANO STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: mb­u­fano@cit­i­zensvoice.com; 570-821-2060; @CVB­u­fano on Twit­ter

EX­ETER — Ev­ery ath­lete’s high school ca­reer starts with the same first step of mak­ing the team.

Al­lie Craig made the Pittston Area var­sity golf team as a fresh­man then con­tin­ued climbing the hi­er­ar­chy.

That same year, she earned a spot in the start­ing lineup. By 10th grade, she was the Pa­tri­ots’ No. 1 player.

“She just has an un­be­liev­able com­pet­i­tive na­ture,” said long­time Pittston Area coach Len Ben­fante, whose past stand­outs in­clude 2010 state champion Bran­don Matthews. “I have to say, of all the years I’ve been coach­ing, she’s as com­pet­i­tive as any­body I’ve ever coached.”

Feed­ing off that com­pet­i­tive edge, Craig, a mul­ti­year cap­tain, has re­mained the Pa­tri­ots’ No. 1 player into her se­nior year.

She has re­cov­ered from off­sea­son knee surgery in peak form, show­ing it ear­lier this year at Fox Hill — Pittston Area’s home course — where she shot 88 over 18 holes for her low­est score yet at the Tryba Pre­sea­son Tour­na­ment.

While the Pa­tri­ots have a los­ing record, they are a per­fect 3-0 this year when Craig is medal­ist.

Now, with pre-dis­tricts later this month, Craig hopes a life­time of hard work pays off with the deep­est post­sea­son run of her ca­reer.

“My game has im­proved a lot this sea­son,” she said. “My scores have dropped, my short game is start­ing to come along the way I’ve been want­ing it to. Now it’s just a mat­ter of: Can I keep it to­gether for 18 holes in­stead of just the nine-hole matches?”

Grow­ing up, Craig played some base­ball and bas­ket­ball, and also gave bowl­ing a try.

Even­tu­ally, though, she dropped all other sports in fa­vor of golf, which she first played at nine years old.

“My un­cle Tommy (Durkin) taught my fa­ther and then my fa­ther taught me,” Craig said.

Given that fam­ily his­tory, it’s nat­u­ral Craig would try golf — and that she’s now try­ing to get her 5-year-old brother T.J. into the sport.

But she said she’s stuck with the sport be­cause of its per­sonal as­pect, in which she could self-an­a­lyze and chal­lenge her­self to play her best with no one else to blame for short­com­ings.

Craig’s fa­ther, Rich Craig, re­called one of his daugh­ter’s early high­lights, when, at 14, she re­cov­ered from a wrist in­jury to win the re­gional driv­ing and chip­ping com­pe­ti­tions at the Drive, Chip and Putt Cham­pi­onships in Bing­ham­ton, New York.

“I putt year-round; (my dad) has my base­ment laid out so it’s kind of like a putting green,” Al­lie Craig said. “He bought a sim­u­la­tor so I could swing in my house and not get rusty over the win­ter. He’s my swing coach. He will take me to the range when­ever he can. He’s put so much time and ef­fort into mak­ing me as good as I am, so I owe ev­ery­thing and all my suc­cess to my fa­ther.”

All that hard work has paid off in the form of Craig’s suc­cess at Pittston Area, as well as at An­thracite Golf As­so­ci­a­tion events, where ear­lier in her ca­reer she’d been moved up to com­pete in older age brack­ets.

The years of play­ing at a high level re­sulted in scar

tis­sue buildup in her right knee, how­ever.

Af­ter play­ing through pain last sea­son, she fi­nally un­der­went surgery in De­cem­ber on a slight menis­cus tear.

Craig ad­mit­ted to play­ing “scared” fol­low­ing surgery at risk of rein­jur­ing her knee, but there have been no set­backs this sea­son, which she hopes to end on the high­est note of her Pa­tri­ots ca­reer.

The only fe­male player who’s a No. 1 in the Wy­oming Val­ley Con­fer­ence, Craig is aim­ing to qual­ify for re­gion­als for the first time.

Re­gard­less of what hap­pens, she hopes to at­tend med school with plans of ma­jor­ing in psy­chol­ogy or chem­istry-bi­ol­ogy.

While she’s cur­rently un­de­cided, Craig is hope­ful she will con­tinue her aca­demic and ath­letic ca­reers at Divi­sion II West Ch­ester.

As Al­lie’s high school ca­reer soon ends, Rich Craig, a golf lifer who played at Se­ton Catholic, thanked the Pittston Area coaches who sac­ri­ficed their time, while re­flect­ing back on his proud­est mo­ments.

“Not only play­ing, but think­ing her way through and be­ing a leader for the team,” Rich Craig said. “That makes me more proud than any­thing else.”

WAR­REN RUDA / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Pittston Area’s Al­lie Craig has been in the start­ing lineup for the Pa­tri­ots since her fresh­man year.

WAR­REN RUDA / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Pittston Area’s Al­lie Craig takes a swing.

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