Five advance to U.S. Amateur Championship at Oakmont
By Mike Dudurich • July 7, 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.
JOHNSTOWN – Virtually impossible, one said.
Can’t be done, another added.
And with the tiniest of asterisks, ‘it’ in this case was all five qualifying spots up for grabs into the U.S. Amateur next month at Oakmont Country Club and Longue Vue Club went to players from the western Pennsylvania.
About that asterisk.
You might not be familiar with the name Grant Martens, who is a resident of San Diego. But he grew up in the North Hills, graduating from North Allegheny in 2008. So, while he doesn’t live here anymore, he did play in some West Penn Golf Association events as a youngster. He qualifies.
But at the end of the day Wednesday, just before a thunderstorm unleashed its fury on the Johnstown area, Martens was joined by Palmer Jackson, Jimmy Meyers, Mark Goetz and Sean Knapp as those who will be playing in the Am at Oakmont and Longue Vue.
And in an amazing sidelight, four of those five qualifiers – Jackson, Goetz, Knapp and Meyers – all are members at Hannastown Golf Club in Greensburg. Thus, the nickname Hannystrong.
Two others nailed down alternate spots when Erik Bertrand defeated Jay Whitby in a playoff. Bertrand is the first alternate, Whitby the second.
Bertrand had a one-shot lead after the first day but couldn’t get anything going Wednesday and finished with a 75. Even Jackson, who won the qualifier, had a hard time making birdies and finished with a 71 on the tough Sunnehanna Country Club layout.
“How about that, I shot one-over and got in?” Jackson smiled. “It’s a good thing my confidence was high coming in. I couldn’t have come in here and tried to win with my C game. But I feel like I’m better off having been tested like this. I’ve been thinking about this for four years and I’m very excited.”
This will be Jackson’s fourth appearance in the U.S. Amateur having appeared at Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes and Pinehurst No. 2, when he lost in the quarterfinals.
Tuesday, he made a birdie on the front and two on the back and said this round was the most pressure he’s ever experienced.
Myers, Goetz and Martens all finished at two-under par and Myers was the only one to turn in a subpar score, a 67.
“I am super-happy,” the junior-to-be at Penn State, said. “Oakmont is my home course, and this is very special. I didn’t make many mistakes today. I don’t know that I played that well, but I knew I had to keep it together to keep myself in it.”
In a classic example of saving the best for last, Knapp is back in the U.S. Amateur for the 17th or 18th time, he couldn’t remember which. But he’s back and his emotional response on Sunnehanna’s putting green said all that needed be said.
“You get to my age, and you don’t know how much time you have left,” he said. “Now I get to play in the Amateur one more time on one of the greatest courses in the world just two blocks from my house.”
To put this accomplishment into context, the 59-year-old Knapp, won the 2017 Senior Amateur and now has yet another opportunity to duel with the youngsters on a national stage.
“Even though I’ve played in this one a number of times, the last three years have been on exemptions,” Knapp said. “People ask me why I keep playing in these tournaments. And I answer that sometimes I just need a little more excitement.”
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.