Brett Boner (USGA photo)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Sept. 26, 2018) – Even early week at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, locals who had meandered out to Charlotte Country Club (or stroke-play companion course Carolina Golf Club) knew Brett Boner
. As he walked under the Charlotte CC clubhouse balcony Saturday after an even-par 71 in stroke play, Boner chatted with nearly everyone.
It’s not surprising considering that Boner was raised at this club, learned to play golf here and was instrumental in securing Carolinas Golf Club, where he is now a member, as the companion course this week. Now, Boner has a shot at becoming an even bigger hero. He will play in Thursday's final match against another North Carolina native, Kevin O’Connell
If this story continues, it could be one for the ages – certainly one of the best golf moments in Boner’s life. On Wednesday, Boner first took down Sam O’Dell in the quarterfinals, 2 up, then went toe-to-toe with arguable favorite Stewart Hagestad
in the semifinals. Boner walked in a 22-foot birdie putt on the difficult par-4 18th to advance, 1 up, with an emotional fist pump and bro hug with Hagestad.
“It was the most thrilling moment of my golf life,” Boner said of the 1-up victory. “I hope there is more tomorrow, and I'm planning on it. I'm pinching myself.”
Even Hagestad noticed the vibe coming out of a hometown crowd that numberered near 300.
“Gosh, he had the crowd on his side and kind of got the ball rolling,” he said. “When you're feeling it, you're feeling it. When you're hot, you're hot. The hole must have got real big for him.”
Boner had been 1 down at the 13th tee, but consecutive birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 turned the match in his favor, and he never let Hagestad back in.
Boner, a two-time Charlotte City Amateur champion, spoke early week of the pressure that hung over him and brother-in-law Stephen Woodard (who went down in the Round of 32) just to qualify for this event. The two are known as some of the better players in the area, but to not even get in the field? It would have been disappointing, to say the least.
Related: Locals Boner, Woodard rep city as U.S. Mid-Am matches begin
So Boner did his homework, eventually deciding on a qualifier at Cedar Brook Country Club in Blue Bell, Pa., because it had Bentgrass greens that were similar to what he is used to. Even though his golf bag didn’t make it on the same flight as he did (“At one point, I thought to myself, ‘This is why you don’t fly somewhere for a qualifier, dummy,’” Boner wrote in his player bio), Boner got them in time to not only play, but win medalist honors.
Boner has a chance to become the fourth player in Mid-Amateur history to win the title in his hometown/area. Jim Holtgrieve (St. Louis) won the inaugural championship at Bellerive C.C. in 1981; William Hoffer (Elgin, Ill.) won the next year at Knollwood C.C. in Lake Forest, Ill. (Chicago area) and George Zahringer (New York) won in 2002 at Stanwich Club, his home club.
But taking down O’Connell will be no small task. The 30-year-old from Cary, N.C., has had a breakthrough year in returning to the amateur game. O’Connell was reinstated in 2015 after a shot at playing professionally. His biggest headline came this summer with a win at the Monroe Invitational.
O’Connell, a North Carolina graduate, gave PGA Tour Qualifying School three tries from 2011-13. Now, he looks perhaps more competitive than ever.
“For the last three years now, I’ve been playing everywhere that I can get invites into, mostly in the summertime,” O’Connell said after winning the Monroe.
On Wednesday afternoon, things looked bleak for O’Connell after his tee shot on the par-3 11th hole found the pond fronting the green and went 4 down to Kyler Sauer. But he regrouped with a winning birdie on the par-5 12th, then won the 13th with a par when Sauer flew the green with his approach, and No. 14 with a 16-foot birdie putt. Sauer made a remarkable 20-foot par putt to halve the 15th hole, but on the par-16th, O’Connell converted an 8-foot birdie to square the match.
“When he bogeyed 13 and obviously I made par and won that hole to go only 2-down, it felt like a match again,” O’Connell said. “I kind of felt like I had the momentum. So, certainly I would say hole No. 13 [was the turning point].”
They both halved 17 and 18, although Sauer nearly birdied both holes. His 20-footer on 17 just peeled to the left and his 25-footer on 18 missed on the right by inches.
On the 19th hole – the par-4 10th – Sauer’s 185-yard approach from the right sailed over the green, leaving him an impossible up and down. O’Connell’s second from the fairway safely stopped 15 feet below the hole and a two-putt birdie sent him into the final.
Information from the USGA used in this report
ABOUT THE U.S. Mid-Amateur
The U.S. Mid-Amateur originated in 1981 for the
amateur golfer of at least 25 years of age, the
purpose of which to provide a formal national
championship for the post-college player. 264
begin the championship with two rounds of sroke
qualifying held at two courses, after which the low
(with a playoff if necessary to get the exact number)
advance to single elimination match play.
View Complete Tournament Information