The 7th green at Oakmont Country Club

Gillam takes 2-shot lead into final round of the West Penn Open
By Mike Dudurich • July 18, 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.


OAKMONT – The old girl on Hulton Road has some mysterious powers in dealing with golfers intent on messing with the world-class reputation she has.

The latest group of those would-be conquerors played rounds at Oakmont Country Club Monday and Tuesday in the 114th West Penn Golf Association’s Open Championship.

Monday it was sunny and hot and by the end of the day, Oakmont was starting to dry out after some Sunday night rain had dampened things a bit. No one in the field broke par in that round, although 20 golfers posted scores of 80 or higher.

With a favorable forecast, there was anticipation of a really tough day on Tuesday. Then came a few early-morning showers and a full-blown downpour halfway through the round. Surely a softened and slowed OCC would be riddled with birdies, right?

Wrong.

Only three players broke par in the second round and, as the low 32 players teed it up this morning, none of them were under par.

James Gilliam of Scotch Valley Country Club leads after rounds of 73 and 68 at one over par. Evan Long of Castle Hills Golf Course trails by a pair of shots after shooting rounds of 72 and 71.

Mike Van Sickle, 69, and David Brown, 68, were the other two under par on Tuesday.

“The course isn’t playing extremely hard,” said Gilliam, who played the course for the first time Sunday. “You can make birdies if you drive it well. I actually thought there was a 66 out there yesterday because these greens are so good. I really thought under-par would lead after two rounds.”

Gilliam, 30, is a professional playing on the mini-tours in the southeast. He graduated from Tyrone High School says he has a simple game plan for the final round.

“I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “Take advantage of what is given to me. That’s the best thing I can do.”

Long, a University of Minnesota student, advanced to sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, is thrilled with his position.

“I feel good about where I am,” he said. “I’m fortunate to be hanging around par and I’m in good shape. To be a part of this field, it doesn’t get much better than that. It’s top-notch. I haven’t hit a of fairways, but I’ve gotten some good bounces and some breaks and just had to grind it out.”

Van Sickle, who won this event at Mystic Rock and Westmoreland Country Club, took a unique approach to his one-under par round.

“I got out here about 5:30 a.m. and had to wait out the rain until 6:30,” he said. “I needed to hit a lot of balls before the round and, after I did, I was driving the ball a lot better. I stayed out of those fairway bunkers for the most part and the two I did hit, I made bogeys. I’d take that kind of round tomorrow.”

Van Sickle’s round vaulted him into a tie for seventh.

Upper St. Clair’s Brown had low expectations coming in, but maybe all he needed to get going was to catch a little lightning in a bottle.

/Playing the sixth hole, a 165-yard par three, Brown’s shot missed the green well right, settling just short of the fescue on the hill there.

“It was almost in the hay,” Brown said. “It took my 60-degree wedge and took a big swing and hit straight up in the air. It hit short of the stick and rolled in. That was crazy, but then Bob Ford hit his approach, hit the stick and stopped a foot from the cup.

“I’m just not playing well. I can’t even beat my son right now. Yesterday, in my 78, if I hadn’t putted well, I could have shot 85. If you can’t drive the ball, you can’t play this course.”

Brown’s round moved him up to a tie for ninth at six-over par.

Twelve players are within five shots of the lead, setting up a shootout today.

OCC will determine just how that will play out.