PITTSBURGH — At last year’s Pittsburgh City Amateur, former Pittsburgh Sports Now reporter Nick Gordon shot a 1-over 68, putting him three behind winner Jon Ross.
On Saturday, Gordon put another 68 together at Schenley Park’s Bob O’Connor Golf Course for the 2021 edition of the tournament. He felt he might have come up just short again, but the score did the trick this time.
Gordon edged a three-player group at 2 over for the victory in the open division, as ‘The Bob’ played host to its signature tournament with the brand-new Arnold Palmer Learning Center serving as backdrop.
With gusting winds out in full force, birdie opportunities didn’t come easily.
This marked the second straight year that one of the area’s oldest courses has shown its teeth against the amateurs, following three-time champion Trent Karlik’s record-breaking 9-under 58 in 2018. Ross was the only golfer under par last year, and no one could get to red numbers on Saturday.
Despite the difficulty, Gordon enjoyed the challenge and said he noticed improvements since his 2020 appearance. Saturday’s tournament did look much more aesthetically pleasing in the bright sunshine, while last year became a rush to beat the rain.
A native of Export, Gordon played hockey and golf at UMass Lowell before a back injury halted his career in both sports. He said the setback forced him to stop doing nearly any physical activity for six years.
“I just recently started playing again,” Gordon said, “so to be able and put up a solid score was a nice mental hurdle.”
Gordon got off to a quiet start, making par on the first two holes and bogeys on 3 and 5.
Two over at that point, he quickly turned around with birdies on No. 6 and No. 8, capping off the front nine with an eagle on the 267-yard par-4 ninth hole. Gordon went with a 3-wood off the tee on No. 9 to avoid trouble behind the green, and landed one seven feet from the hole.
After the front-nine 32, bogeys on No. 10 and No. 12 made Gordon feel that he needed to make up ground. That aggressiveness led to a costly mistake when he double-bogeyed the par-3 14th hole.
“As the round went on I started to press a bit more,” he said. “Unfortunately, that led to a few mistakes on the green which was really what happened with my double on 14. I put a little too much into a downhill putt and three-putted from about six feet which was a silly mistake.”
In the meantime, Pittsburgh Golf Now founder Matt Gajtka awaited the results, unaware of the leaderboard outside of the first few groups.
Gajtka, who teed off an hour and a half before Gordon, took the clubhouse lead with a 2-over 69. He had hoped for even lower, but still improved from last year’s fifth-place finish off of a 71.
“I had 65 in mind as a score I was capable of, so I fell a little short of that,” Gajtka said. “Swing was hot, then cold, but I chipped and putted well all day. I’m proud of that.”
Although he wound up coming just one shot short, Gajtka did not think he had put together a winning score when he walked off the 18th green. A front-nine 31 put him in prime position, but Gajtka bogeyed the next two holes, followed by a triple bogey at the par-3 14th.
“I started fighting a hook on the back nine and got away with it until 14, when I lost a ball that I think plugged left of the green,” he said. “Couldn’t prove it so I had to re-tee. I figured that killed my chances, even though I tried to stay positive.”
After Gajtka played the final four holes at level par, Gordon felt like he needed at least one or two more birdies to finish if he wanted to take the trophy home.
He got one on No. 16, but his chance for two in a row lipped out on 17. But it didn’t matter in the end, as a par at the last gave him the score he needed for the first win of his career.
“It was an event that I have heard so much about, that has a great history, so as the round went on I forced a few things,” Gordon said. “Fortunately, I was able to hold on at the end which was a pretty great feeling.”
Nick Gordon – 68
Gary Buffington III – 69
Matt Gajtka – 69
Tim Manwaring – 69
SENIOR (Ages 50-61)
Lee Gipson – 70
Martin King-Smith – 73
SUPER SENIOR (Ages 62+)
Norm Conway – 68
Kaylee Houy – 100
Joseph Farrell – 72
Kaylee Houy – 100