Mitchell Meissner (L) and Ben Schlottman will face off at Pinehurst #2 (Pinehurst photo)
PINEHURST, NC (June 28, 2018) – Well, it’s working.
Six months ago, Rice’s top player Mitchell Meissner, played the best he could play. From tee to green, he hit the ball better than he could remember. There was just one problem.
“I missed everything,” he says. “I couldn’t make a putt.”
Frustrated, angry and feeling – dare we say it? – yippy, Meissner got a tip from his coach:
Try putting left-handed.
With a couple of left-handers on the Owls, Meissner asked to borrow their putters on the practice green. Almost immediately, something clicked.
Since then, Meissner has been on a tear. Already an accomplished player before making the drastic switch, he’s soared, becoming Rice’s all-time career winner. His run has continued through the summer, taking the Conference USA Championship before winning the Greater San Antonio Match Play in early June. Ten days ago, Meissner won the Texas Amateur
, a championship that counts Ben Crenshaw, Mark Brooks, Scott Verplank and Bruce Lietzke among its past champions.
And now, after two wins on Thursday, Meissner is one match victory away from adding a Putter Boy trophy to his early summer collection. But it won’t be easy, as he will face All-SEC performer Ben Schlottman in the championship match of the 118th North & South Amateur on Friday morning on Pinehurst No. 2. (The match will be live-streamed on Pinehurst Resort’s Facebook page beginning around 8 a.m.)
“I’m pretty excited,” Meissner says. “It’s been a long few weeks, but it’s been a fun few weeks playing golf. I’ve played a lot of golf, but (No. 2) is really special. You have to be so strategic and come in with a specific gameplan, which is what I think I’m really good at.”
It helps that his mind is free again.
“Oh, I was a mental mess,” he says. “I was getting pretty nervy over 5-footers.”
It’s not that way anymore, as was evident on the 16th hole. Though he built a large lead over North Carolina’s Ryan Gerard throughout, Gerard began to apply some pressure late in the match. After his chip from the front of the green ran by 6 feet, Meissner faced a delicate putt back down the hill.
He settled comfortably over the ball, took one look at the cup and calmly rattled it in, eliminating Gerard 3 & 2.
“I’m not scared about making 6-footers anymore,” Meissner says.
Schlottman is anything but fearful on the golf course. While he had trouble off the tee against North Carolina senior Jose Montano, Schlottman was a master scrambler, finding ways to get up-and-down all day during his semifinal match.
That enabled Schlottman to build and keep a lead throughout the match, but when Montano made a late surge, Schlottman was able to fend him off – perhaps because he didn’t need his driver.
After trimming the deficit from three holes down to just one, Montano hit a nice shot into the par-3 15th. With the pressure on, Schlottman lofted a searing high fade with a 5 iron directly at the pin tucked in the back-right. The ball landed softly just 5 feet away, and after making the putt, Schlottman walked to the 16th tee 2-up.
But Montano won the 16th with a par – Schlottman lost his drive to the left – and after another errant drive on 18, Schlottman pulled his approach left of the green.
With Montano comfortably in the middle of the green, Schlottman deftly skidded a chip shot to a tough hole location in the back-left of the green, forcing Montano to make birdie to extend the match.
Montano’s putt lipped out, giving Schlottman, who made the match play field after surviving a 9-for-6 playoff on Tuesday, a berth in the championship match.
“It’s tough playing No. 2 for 36 holes in this heat,” Schlottman joked after the match Thursday. “Eighteen holes at 7 a.m.? That’s going to feel like a breeze.”
Still, there was work left to be done before Schlottman could call it a day.
“I’ve got to go to the range to figure out how to hit a fairway,” he said.
ABOUT THE North & South Amateur
The North & South Amateur Championship is the
longest consecutively run amateur tournament in
United States. Its past winners list includes names
Travis, Francis Ouimet, Billy Joe Patton, Jack
and Curtis Strange. The field is made up of invited
players as well as open applications. Two rounds of
play are followed by five rounds of match play
qualifiers) to determine the Champion. All stroke
& match play rounds are contested on
Pinehurst No. 2.
View Complete Tournament Information