Kevin O'Connell (MIC photo)
PITTSFORD, NY (June 16, 2018) - Kevin O’Connell
likes the venues that amateur golf makes available. While it’s hard to beat the competition level of the mini-tours, the 29-year-old explains, mid-amateur life brings a whole new level of enjoyment to the game.
O’Connell, a North Carolina graduate, gave PGA Tour Qualifying School three tries from 2011-13. When he didn’t make it on tour, he applied to regain his amateur status, began work with a wealth management firm in Chapel Hill, N.C., and dove into competitive golf once again.
“For the last three years now, I’ve been playing everywhere that I can get invites into, mostly in the summertime,” said O’Connell, who is currently in between jobs as he decides what his work-golf balance will look like long-term.
O’Connell won the Monroe Invitational on Saturday for his biggest victory since he decided to go down the mid-amateur road. It may be the biggest victory of his career. O’Connell played four years for the University of North Carolina, collecting two top-5 finishes (one in his first start with the Tar Heels in the fall of 2007), but never a trophy.
“I never did win in college, one of my biggest regrets,” he said.
O’Connell began the day at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y., one shot behind leader Ashton Poole
. But Poole, who won the Dogwood Invitational a week ago, never could get anything going on Saturday. He was 1 over on the front, made birdie at No. 10, then bogeyed four of his last six holes. Poole ultimately slid down the leaderboard to a tie for ninth, four shots behind O’Connell.
Despite O’Connell’s strong close – he birdied Nos. 8, 10, 11 and 12 to set up the title – you might say that the real work in winning this tournament happened in Round 2. Blustery conditions caused rounds to soar. His 1-over 71 was the lowest of any competitor that day.
“I thought I did a really good job that day of really being patient, understanding that nobody was really going to shoot under par and even if they did it was going to be almost a partly lucky round,” he said. “I went about it that way and tried to take the pressure off and truly did the best that I could.”
O’Connell found his way into the Monroe field at the advice of good friend Justin Tereshko
, a fellow mid-amateur who has spent the past four seasons as the head men’s golf coach at Guilford College. Tereshko has been a good resource for O’Connell in terms of how to build an amateur golf schedule, and how to balance golf with all the other things life throws at a mid-amateur.
Every story is different, however, and O’Connell is still trying to figure his out. As for the rest of this summer, he’ll try to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Amateur, and will also play the Carolinas Amateur and the Porter Cup.
Even if professional golf is harder to break into, O’Connell notices that amateur golf is only getting deeper as fields are flooded with more talent.
“A lot of work goes into it, even at the mid-amateur level,” he said. “It takes a lot to win, all the players are so good, all the college kids coming out now. I would say that the fields are deeper even compared to how they were ten years ago.”
The Monroe leaderboard demonstrated that. Three players right behind O’Connell matched his 1-under effort on Saturday, including Bryce Hendrix
in second and Andy Ogletree
and Peter Knade
in a tie for third.
Hendrix was attempting to win his second major tournament in as many weeks. The UNCG standout won the Palmetto Amateur
one week ago and he made a late charge today, with five birdies on his final nine holes, to get within one and force O'Connell to par the last for the win.
The group of four players tied for fifth at 5 over included Matthew Lowe
, Matthew Walker
, Arthur Griffin
and Tereshko, who had a bogey-free 63 to close the event.
ABOUT THE Monroe Invitational
Small-field invitational event played on a great
par 70 Donald Ross course. 72 hole stroke play
championship dates back to 1937. No cut. Once
the final field is determined by the MIC
Selection Committee, official invitations will be
issued. To apply for an invitation, visit the
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