Palmer Jackson (left) and Connor Schmidt (right) competing for their respective universities.
Photos courtesy of the University of Notre Dame and Drexel University.

Two great college golf seasons
By Mike Dudurich • June 30, 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.

There are seasons and there are seasons.

And a pair of collegiate golfers from Western Pennsylvania put together SEASONS in 2019.

Competing in the fall seasons at Notre Dame and Drexel, respectively, Palmer Jackson and Connor Schmidt played the game at an amazing level.

“If I don’t have confidence now, I don’t know that I ever can,” Jackson said, reflecting on his first semester of college golf under the shadow of the Golden Dome.

“I’m most proud of this year because I was able to score so well, especially because I felt like every week I was struggling with some part of my game,” Schmidt added.

Jackson arrived on campus at Notre Dame just days after making it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst. The early days as a collegian had their ups and downs, but as has been a pattern in his young career, Jackson’s first swing as a member of the Fighting Irish was down the middle of the fairway, followed by a wedge to four feet and a birdie.

What followed was a remarkable five-event fall season that included 18 holes from the ladies’ tees and ended with his first tournament victory, the Quail Valley Collegiate. He shot 67-66-67, scores that enabled him to finish with a team-leading 70.07 scoring average.

The round from the ladies tee?

“The week before our only home tournament, I was struggling,” he said. “I had shot rounds of 73-71-72 in the previous tournament. On Friday morning of our event, I went out and played 18 holes from the ladies tees. I needed to feel success again, needed to score again and it worked.”

He posted scores of 66-69 in the first two rounds before stumbling to a 75 in the final round.

“Even with the final round, I learned how to think again,” Jackson said.

While Jackson was making his mark on Notre Dame and college golf, Schmidt continued to play exceptional golf as a senior at Drexel University.

In six tournaments, Schmidt finished in the top 15 four times, including a win in the season-ending City 6 Championships, an event that includes six Philadelphia-area colleges and universities.

But that victory was just the cherry on top of the sundae in terms of Schmidt’s season, one that actually began not long before the start of his college season when he won the West Penn Amateur at Oakmont Country Club.

That win was extra sweet because a year ago he almost won the West Penn Open in 2018 at Oakmont.

How about these numbers? Of the 15 rounds he played for Drexel, only six were in the 70s.

He finished fifth, T10, second and first in five events, coming off a junior season that was record-setting in a number of ways. And he was also second in the nation with a final-round of average of 66.7.

And he finished the fall season with a scoring average of 69.7, one of the best averages in the nation in that category.

“I thought it was definitely a good year for me,” Schmidt said. “The trend I’ve been on the last two years is that I’ve improved every year. I’m most proud this year of being to score so well.”

He proudly points to the two events at Oakmont as playing a big role in how his junior and senior seasons have unfolded. “Winning, and almost winning, at Oakmont is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Schmidt said. “Playing there is so different and what I did there proves I can play tough courses at a high level.”

It is a high time for amateur golf in the Western Pennsylvania and nothing could be a better example of that than the seasons posted by Palmer Jackson and Connor Schmidt.

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.