State amateur features plenty of local flavor

This year’s prestigious Pennsylvania Amateur championship, which concluded on Wednesday, was held at one of the country’s oldest and most historic courses – Oakmont Country Club, near Pittsburgh.

The tournament, which began more than 100 years ago, is open to amateur golfers across the state who currently hold a handicap of 7.4 or lower.

Successful qualifiers compete in a 54-hole stroke-play event that is conducted over a three-day span. This year, a total of 120 golfers qualified and played a total of 36 holes on Monday and Tuesday. The final 18 holes were played on Wednesday after the field was cut to the top 40 competitors.

The eventual winner of this year’s championship was John Sawin, from Merion Golf Club, who carded scores of 72, 72 and 70 en route to a three-stroke victory.

While hearty congratulations are in order for Sawin, this year’s Pennsylvania Amateur championship was of particular interest to many central Pennsylvania residents for several reasons

First of all, two local golfers were among the field who qualified and competed earlier this week. Artie Fink Jr., the best amateur golfer in central Pennsylvania over the past decade, shot an opening-round score of 76 and was in position to make the cut on Tuesday when a triple bogey on the 16th hole derailed his chances. Fink has competed in numerous Pennsylvania Amateurs, making the cut in three of the past five events. His best finish was a tie for sixth place in 2010.

Another local competitor was David Lucks, playing out of Iron Masters Country Club. Lucks, who moved to Johnstown a couple of years ago, is a native of Missouri and has qualified for numerous USGA events during a long, successful amateur career.

Lucks shot a two-day total of 163 at this year’s championship.

An additional local tie to this year’s Amateur championship was the man who’s taken on the responsibility of maintaining Oakmont’s world-famous fairways and greens – superintendent John Zimmers.

Zimmers, born and raised in Tyrone, assumed this tremendous responsibility of overseeing the historic club grounds in 1999. He has guided Oakmont Country Club through two recent major championships – the 2007 U.S. Open and 2010 U.S. Women’s Open – and received rave reviews for his work each time.

A final link to the central Pennsylvania golf scene is the man who arguably had the most responsibility at this year’s Pennsylvania Amateur: Everett-area native Cory Reighard, who is the Director of Competitions for the Pennsylvania Golf Association.

Reighard, formerly the Director of Course Rating for the Golf Association of Philadelphia, moved into his newest position near the end of last year. In his new role, Reighard is responsible for the operation of more than 20 events the Pennsylvania Golf Association conducts across the state each year.

“I’m learning a lot, with this being my first year,” Reighard said. “I’m getting more comfortable as the year goes along, but this week was a particularly busy one. The Amateur championship is one of our biggest events of the year.”

The fact that this year’s tournament was held at Oakmont Country Club, which has hosted a record seven U.S. Opens, was not lost on Reighard.

“This is the absolute best place in the state,” Reighard said. “The course was in great shape this year, as usual, but it was also brutally tough. The entire staff here was so great to work with, too – from the members, to the grounds crew, to head pro Bob Ford, everyone was fantastic.”

The only minor hiccup during the tournament was a sudden rainstorm on Monday that halted play for about an hour. Reighard and his staff had to scramble to ensure that all the golfers finished play that day.

Tuesday’s weather was delightful, and by the end of Wednesday, the 101st Pennsylvania Amateur concluded successfully, with the crowning of Sawin from Merion Golf Club.

While this year’s tournament is in the record books, Reighard will have little time to rest as he prepares for next week’s Senior Amateur championship in Waynesboro, followed by the Pennsylvania Open, held Aug. 11-13 at the Country Club of York.