Connor Schmidt with the W.C. Fownes Jr. Trophy (WPGA photo)
By Mike Dudurich
To the three young men involved, what happened on the closing holes of the 119th West Penn Amateur Wednesday at Oakmont Country Club must have seemed like a blinking of an eye.
In reality, it was more like a slow dripping faucet. With each drip the dreams of two of those players slowly and painfully slipped away, while the long-shot hopes of the other became a dream come true.
Connor Schmidt, the WPGA’s 2019 Spring Stroke Play Championship winner, finished first of the trio, having teed off the group ahead Palmer Jackson and Mark Goetz, who were in the final group. He had played well putting together nines of 36-35.
With a finishing total of four-over par 217, Schmidt wasn’t in the lead, but he knew he was close enough to stay very interested into what was going on behind him.
Jackson did not have a great day, posting 40-37, a day that started with a tee shot on the third hole that was inches out of bounds, resulting in a double bogey. He had some birdie looks throughout his round but didn’t make any.
Goetz, on the other hand, converted four on the front side and amassing a five-shot lead early on the back nine. But after making only eight bogeys in the first 45 holes, he made three more on the back nine and the coup de grace, a quadruple bogey 8 on the finishing hole.
On that tee, Goetz pulled driver and attempted to hit a cut into that difficult fairway and the cut got away from him, sailing over the bunkers on the right not coming back to earth until it was out of bounds. Goetz reloaded and his second tee shot found its way into one of those nasty Oakmont CC bunkers on the right side.
Needing to get up and down from there for the win, Goetz found himself unable to do anything but fluff a sand wedge out into the fairway. His pitch shot was well-struck, too well actually, rolling well past the cup. He and Jackson both had 25-30 foot putts that needed to be made to force a playoff.
Neither was able to make the putts and Schmidt was the winner.
“I had no idea what was going on out there,” Schmidt said after winning his second WPGA title. “My grandparents were here, and it was the first time they’d seen me play. I was visiting with them. Listen, those are two good kids, great players. It was unfortunate what happened to them.”
For Goetz, the catastrophe on 18 was a gut-punch. He seemed to be on his way to the biggest win of his young career, but it didn’t happen. He did take satisfaction in how the other 17 holes had gone.
“I played good all day,” he said. “If things had been a little different on 16 and 17 things might have been different. But it didn’t happen. But I love the competition, love being in contention. These are the kinds of experiences that will stick with me.”
Jackson said he entered the final round with a specific mindset.
“I figured if I could shoot something in the low 70s, that would be good,” he said. “And it would have been.”
And it would have been, but Jackson finished with a 77 and Goetz a 74.
For Schmidt, the importance of the win was evident.
“It’s my first WPGA title and it means a lot to me,” he said. “There are so many good players out here and this was one of the best fields they’ve ever had. It’s very special.”
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ABOUT THE WPGA Amateur
Started in 1899 and played all but two
1917-18, during World War I, the West
Amateur is one of the oldest regional
championships in the country. The 54-hole
tournament starts with a field of 78
holes the first day, with a cut to the low
and ties (or within seven shots of the
the second day. 18 holes of stroke play
qualifying held at multiple sites for non-
players prior to the championship.
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