Four share lead in 114th WPGA Open Championship
By Mike Dudurich • July 17, 2018
Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.
0AKMONT – With 25 players within six shots of the lead in the 114th West Penn Open Championship, winning the highly coveted title is either going to be a sprint or a slog through the heat of July in Western Pennsylvania.
And one of the top layouts in the world, Oakmont Country Club, will determine that.
“Today the course won,” said Sean Knapp. He was correct, with 20 players having posted rounds of 80 or above. And no player was able to break par and only four players were able to through the 90-degree day at even par 70.
Brett Young, Nathan Smith, Matt Holuta and Kevin Koerbel were those four and each had different stories as to how they got there.
For Young, the son of former Penguins’ winger Warren Young, it was an eagle on 14, birdies on 1 and 4 that were offset by a double bogey on 2 and bogeys on 12 and 15.
“Hey, any time I shoot even par around here I’ll take it,” he said. “It was firm and fast out there and I really was just trying to play my game. I’ve played enough of these events to know I have to play my own game.”
Smith, fresh off his sixth Siegel Match Play Championship, continued his strong play with birdies on the 15th and 17th that were offset by a double-bogey on 7.
“I played well. I’m kind of doing everything well,” Smith admitted. “I thought the pins were tough, but it very nice to play a good round. And I’ll need to do that in the second round, too.”
Smith drove the 17th green and two-putted for a birdie and recorded birdies on 3 and 15. His bogeys both had an Oakmont tint to them. On 7, he reached the green in regulation and proceeded to four-putt. And he three-putted the first, as well. Smith also had a fun-filled par at the 10th when he putted off the green and chipped in.
Koerbel, of Shaler, might have the most interesting story of the four co-leaders. He probably has played Oakmont more than anyone else in the field other than former golf professional Bob Ford.
Koerbel started caddying there at age 13 and continued through age 25 and figures he played 150 rounds, starting the Monday evenings when caddies were able to play the course.
In the first round he had a birdie and two bogeys on the front and two birdies and a bogey on the back.
“I haven’t been up on many scoreboards, for sure,” Koerbel, now a member at Shannopin Country Club, said. “But I think I’ve learned a little about how to play around here and set a target score of Koerbel bogey 15, birdie 10, 12 - 68 or 69. I hit a confident shot on the first tee and was real close to that target score.”
After making birdies on 10 and 12, his only bogey of the day came at 15 where his drive landed in the left fairway bunker. His second shot was a bit chunky but he made a really good third shot to three feet.
“And, of course, I missed it,” he chuckled.
In at 71 were Allegheny Country Club pro John Aber and Rob McClellan of Oakview Golf Club with Justin Moose, Connor Schmidt, Evan Long and Zach Str>eet completing one round at two-over 72.?
Moose, an Irwin native, is tied for 14th in the World Long Drive rankings, came into this event with a very simple and specific game plan: Hit his driver as often as possible, with the goal being hitting it past the trouble that is so much part of Oakmont.
An example of that came at the long par 4, 15th. He pulled out the big stick and when the ball stopped rolling on the 456-yard hole, he had 60 yards left to the green.
“Of course, I came up short with my approach and then three-putted,” Moose said. “I’ll tell you, my brain hurts. This course does that to you. This is a different game and I have to gear it down. I kept it in the fairway for the most part. It’s the first time I’ve seen the place in a couple years and I was excited.”
His was the wildest of all rides. He birdied the first and fourth, then went double bogey, bogey, bogey and made the turn at 38. Moose eagled the 12th with a driver and 6-iron, but made the bogey on 15 and another at 16.
The second round gets underway at 8 a.m. today with players going off both tees. After the round, the field will be trimmed to the low 32 scores and ties.
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.