Stimmel wins third Spring Stroke Play Championship
By Mike Dudurich • June 29, 2020
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.
EXPORT – Over the course of a career that has seen victories, defeats and everything in between, Rick Stimmel has seen it all. He played in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, he’s overpowered golf courses with his prodigious length and has suffered gut-wrenching losses.
But after he won the West Penn Golf Association’s 27th Spring Stroke Play Championship Monday at Westmoreland Country Club, the 52-year-old found himself involved in an interesting conversation.
As the scoreboard filled in behind Stimmel’s four-under par 67, none of the names of his longtime competitors were immediately seen.
A shot behind were Kyle Grube of Indiana Country Club and Shane Kelly of Wildwood Golf Club at 3-under par and Shawn Edgar of Valley Brook Country Club finished with a 70.
Those were the only players under par in the field of 44 and it wasn’t until a T-8 until one of Stimmel’s contemporaries was found, Nathan Smith.
“It really has been amazing to see what’s happened over time,” Stimmel, of Diamond Run Golf Club, said. “I used to hit the ball a long way, I was the guy out front. But I’ve played with some of these kids and they’ve been 30-40 past me. It’s remarkable actually.”
Stimmel had a four-birdie, no bogey round, making a two-putt birdie on the first hole and then posted birdies on 10, 11 and 14.
“I’ve been playing well lately and my game started coming around over the weekend,” he said. “I started making those 4-6 foot putts that mean something. This is a good tournament to win.”
His two previous victories in the Spring Stroke Play came at the Field Club and Mystic Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.
Grube had his chances to catch Stimmel, but pointed to a pair of bogeys he made from inside 100 yards to the green.
“Yeah, I left a couple out there,” he said. “But I hit 15 greens and played pretty well.”
Grube finished his four years at Robert Morris University this spring but when the NCAA offered another year of eligibility to athletes of spring sports cancelled by COVID-19 he decided to go back for another season.
“I’m kind of on a streak,” Grube laughed. “I’ve been second in my last three events. I want to see what I can do with that streak.”
Smith, while not pleased with his game, said the resurgence of the young amateurs has been very obvious.
“The game is exploding with Palmer Jackson, Conner Schmidt and that whole group,” Smith, a six-time champion in the event, said. “There are 10 or 15 more who are right there, too. It’s really changed the game a lot, changed the way it’s played. It’s been interesting to watch.”
Sean Knapp, a three-time winner, said you don’t have to a do a whole lot of research to discover how the youngsters are changing the game.
“They are taking over the game with the distance they possess,” Knapp said. “It’s a different game they play and they’re good kids.”
Next up on the WPGA schedule is the 120th Amateur Championship July 6-7 at Allegheny Country Club.
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.