Two lead Sunnehanna Amateur
By Mike Dudurich • June 17, 2021
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.
WESTMONT – It was a perfect day for golf. Well other than the unusually cool breezes that blew from a different direction than normal and a firmer and firmer golf course, one with ferocious rough that acted as a defense to the onslaught of very talented golfers.
And that was just the first day of the 68th Sunnehanna Amateur.
It was indeed a perfect day atop the Alleghenies unless you were competing in the Am and then it was a sometimes-tough walk. Max Steinlechner and Jerry Ji lead the field with a pair of 66s, but overall, only 13 players were able to break par.
The six players from the West Penn Golf Association hoped to get off to one of those quick starts but fell short of making that happen. Palmer Jackson, who last week won the state match play, got it to 2-under with an eagle on the short par-5 11th but gave those two right back on the 16th thanks to a couple putting mishaps.
“I actually played pretty well,” Jackson said. “I hit 6-iron on 16 from 170 yards uphill and it went to the back edge. I hit the putt a little too hard and it rolled off the green and into the fairway. A bogey would have been good there.
Mark Goetz, coming off an honorable mention All-America senior season at West Virginia, fought off his own flat stick problems for most of the round, but they came back to bite him on the 17th and 18th for a 72.
“I’ve been struggling with the putter for a while,” Goetz said. “I made a change with the putter, the first one in seven years. I hit a lot of good putts today, but the one on 17 stung because I really thought I made the first one.”
He was a bit unlucky, too. After draining a lengthy putt a 8 for birdie, his effort for a four on the par-5 ninth stopped on the edge of the hole and defied gravity by not falling in. Same thing on the 10th when a good chance at birdie just slid by.
The last of the three young guns, Connor Schmidt, struggled a bit more, thanks to a bogey on the sixth and a double on the seventh, leading to 38 on the front. He made a pair of birdies on the back, but also three more bogeys and he finished with a 74.
The more veteran part of that half-dozen had mixed results as well. Sean Knapp joined Jackson and Goetz at 2-over but so with a gnarling double bogey on the 18th.
Nathan Smith had an uncharacteristic round of 73. He made six bogeys and just three birdies.
Brock Matava posted a 77 with a round that included two birdies.
The final veteran, Rick Stimmel, struggled. His round started with four straight bogeys, and it was tough after that, as in a double bogey on the fifth hole and a front nine 41. He double bogeyed the par 3 10th, made a bogey followed by three more bogeys. Stimmel finished with a 39 on the back and an 80 for the day.
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.