Frazier Golfer Stays Focused on His Game

By Harvath, Les | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 14, 2007 | Go to article overview

Frazier Golfer Stays Focused on His Game


Harvath, Les, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


When Frazier High School junior Zach Lash is golfing in a foursome with senior teammate Joey D'Auria, he often admires D'Auria's level of concentration.

"Joey appears to be in his own focus zone, and his focus is above that of anyone else on the course," Lash said.

Sophomore teammate Nick Hawranko added, "For Joey, there are no distractions. In golf, not being able to hear may be an advantage."

D'Auria, who lives in Mt. Braddock, part of the Laurel Highlands School District, has been golfing since he was 11 years old. He has been deaf since birth. His parents, Patrick and Joann, are deaf, and deafness is in both families' histories.

When D'Auria was a freshman member of Frazier's golf team, his average score was in the mid-50s, coach Larry Mikesell recalls. Now, midway through his senior season, Mikesell sees D'Auria "as a steady player who generally plays in our No. 3 position and is only one or two strokes behind our No. 1 player."

At 5-feet-7-inches and weighing 130 pounds, D'Auria's strength is that he "hits the ball straight," Mikesell said.

"Joey is not long off the tee, but he keeps the ball in the short grass. He knows his distances with each club. He is precise with his irons regarding both distance and accuracy and is also a good putter."

"Putting is definitely Joey's strength," Lash said.

During a recent match at Mon Valley Country Club, D'Auria drove through the green on a par-three hole and followed with a pitch that scurried past the cup and down a severely sloping green, leaving him a 50-foot uphill, undulating putt.

D'Auria lined up his putt and watched it twist and turn -- and drop into the cup.

In the WPIAL qualifier at the same course, another player was in virtually the same position; he badly missed the putt, even after asking D'Auria for advice.

D'Auria shot an 88 in the WPIAL qualifier, but was three shots shy of advancing to the WPIAL tournament.

In fact, in what may be the ultimate compliment, D'Auria's Frazier teammates and especially players on opposing teams often seek his advice on greens, noted Kim Barkey, who accompanies D'Auria to many matches.

Barkey, employed by Intermediate Unit 1, located in Coal Center and serving Washington, Fayette, and Greene counties, has two deaf children and teaches deaf students using sign language.

But on the course D'Auria is not treated any differently by Mikesell -- Frazier's only golf coach since 1986 -- or the other players.

"I've been around challenged kids in the classroom," said Mikesell, who retired just shy of spending 38 years in the learning support classroom at Frazier, "and it's the same on the golf course. I've watched Joey grow emotionally and socially. He has grown into a nice young man."

Having accompanied D'Auria to numerous matches, Barkey added that "his teammates are a great help in letting Joey know what is happening on the course, in case there might be a stray shot."

Provided by the IU, interpreters such as Barkey and Paul Tajc, who also works with deaf members in his family, have accompanied D'Auria to matches, practice sessions and to the practice driving range all four years he has been with the team.

"They are excellent," Mikesell said. "They are very valuable, and working with the students in the classroom, they know the students better than I do."

Tajc has been working with D'Auria since he was in fifth grade; Barkey has worked with D'Auria since sixth grade.

"Deaf people can do anything except hear," Barkey said. …

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