Palmer Jackson competing for Notre Dame.

Jackson finishes fourth in Sunnehanna Amateur
By Mike Dudurich • June 19, 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.

Call it another step in the evolution of Palmer Jackson.

The soon-to-be junior at Notre Dame is a very accomplished golfer, one of the best in the nation.

And while he’s competed in and won a variety of amateur events, Jackson’s arrow continues to point higher and higher in the golf world.

He lit up the world of the 68th Sunnehanna Amateur Friday by producing nine birdies to go along with three bogeys and found himself playing in the last group of the day, right in the middle of the hunt.

Jackson wasn’t able to create another nine birdies around this classic old course on Saturday, but he did learn a very important lesson.

”I learned today that in these big major events, I can compete with the best players,” he said.

Compete, he did.

Paired with the University of Georgia’s Trent Philips and Stanford’s Karl Vilips, the trio rode the rollercoaster of emotion that’s part of every high-level competition. Philips had a pair of bogeys and a birdie on the front nine, Vilips had three bogeys and a double bogey to go along with a birdie and Jackson had a pair of bogeys and a pair of bogeys.

And then came the 10th.

When the last group reached the 160-yard par three, the wind reached its most intense of the day. Upward of 20-miles per hour and directly into the face of the players, Jackson tried a bit of a different shot from the tee.

“I tried to hit a low bullet 7-iron in there,” he said. “It came up short and right down below that green and it was tough there. I tried to hit a high flop shot and, well it didn’t go well.”

A result of all that was a double bogey and suddenly he was in a bit of a tough spot. And how did he respond? By matching the three straight birdies that Philips put up. Those staved off a strong stretch of play by Ian Siebers and Travis Vick in the group ahead.

“Right there, I needed to get on a par streak and got three birdies,” Jackson said. “That’s what I’m proud of. I proved I can perform at the highest level like that.”

He also mentioned that the size of the crowd that showed up under threatening skies was a surprise to him. It surely seemed as though there were more people on the ground there had been in recent years.

“That’s the most people I’ve played in front of,” he said.

He was able to make only one more birdie and settled for a tie for fourth with Leo Oy.

Palmer was asked if he felt any pressure and he responded as you’d think he would.

“I felt a lot starting out and I’ve felt pressure before, but usually it’s been self-inflicted,” he said. “But I don’t run from, I embrace it.”

Jackson has a full summer of golf ahead and that will include another trip to the outskirts of Johnstown.

“I have the Northeast Amateur this coming week and then Frank Fuhrer’s tournament and then a week off,” Jackson laughed.

He’ll be part of a two-day U.S. Amateur qualifying event July 5-6 at Sunnehanna featuring 144 players. Those two qualify from there will play in the U.S. Amateur a month after that at Longue Vue and Oakmont.

The only other golfer from the West Penn Golf Association to make the cut was 2013 Sunnehanna Amateur champion Nathan Smith. On Saturday he got off to a slow start, making three birdies on the front side. On the back side, he added two more bogeys and finished with a 73, tying him for 47th on the scoreboard.

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.