Sean Knapp (left) and Nathan Smith (right) are among seven players from western Pennsylvania competing in the Sunnehanna Amateur.

Familiar names near the top of the Sunnhenna Amateur leaderboard
By Mike Dudurich • June 18, 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.

Thursday was an interesting day at the 68th Sunnehanna Amateur at Sunnehanna Country Club.

Bright, sunny skies with breezy conditions made for sometimes confusion the players. The thick rough that has bedeviled the field continued to do so.

And when the sun had set on the second round of the historic event, the two most experienced players of the seven from the West Penn Golf Association were in the best position of the group.

Nathan Smith backed up his opening-round 73 with a sparking 68 and finds himself in a tie for 25th, while Sean Knapp posted a 70 to with his first-round 72 and a tie for 31st. While Palmer Jackson is one of those tied with Knapp after rounds of 72-70, it was how well the Mid-Am (Smith) and Senior (Knapp) were able to hang with the youngsters.

“Well, other than the four-putt on the 18th that dropped me back to 72”, I was playing as technically sound as I had in a long time,” Knapp said after posting his best round in the last 15 years in the Am. “You just can’t make mistakes here, well at least I can’t.“

He also offered an interesting perspective on the lengthening of the course for the event to challenge the long-hitting amateurs.

“The increased length affects the kids more than me,” he said. “I can’t hit it any further, so I just play my game. They’re trying to hit it further and further.”

Smith said he’s been playing well recently and has continued that run.

“In the state match play I was like 10-under par or something, so that’s pretty good,” Smith laughed. “To post a score like 68, well, it’s always nice.”

He put together a pair of birdies on the front, added another at the 11th before making his only bogey on the 12th. Smith parred his way out from there.

“I can’t remember the last time the rough was this high,” Smith said. “It’s really changed the tournament. Both Sean and I felt good about our games coming in and it’s nice to be in the hunt.”

Palmer had one of those rounds that added up to a 72 but felt much worse than that.

“Yeah it did, but you have to hit fairways and greens, it’s really tough,” he said.

He felt like he putted poorly in the Seigel Match Play, but said that made him concentrate on the rest of his game which he did. And while he’s putting better, he knows he left some shots on the greens.

He almost made an ace on the 208-yard par-3 fifth when his 4-iron stopped just inches from the cup.

But the birdie he made on 17 and par on 18 were key in his mind.

“I still have to go play well, hit more fairways and greens and make some putts,” he said. “If I make some early, who knows, I can still get back in this.”

The other four WPGA players will have to put together spectacular rounds and get some help in the form of train wrecks ahead of them to get inside the top 50 players who’ll go on to play Saturday.

Mark Goetz (72-72, T61), Connor Schmidt (74-77, T92), Brock Matava (77-75, 95th) and Rick Stimmel (80-73, 96th) are those players.

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.