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In The Arena: Charge at Mid-Am Yields Young’s First West Penn Title

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Brett Young holds the Birmingham Trophy after winning the 2020 WPGA Mid-Amateur. (WPGA)

Seemingly every story about Brett Young’s golf accomplishments includes a hockey reference of some sort, so let’s just get it out of the way now.

Yes, his dad is Warren Young, the erstwhile Penguins forward and current amateur scout for the team. And yes, Brett served as captain of the successful Cal U. club hockey program.

Now that that’s covered …

As a two-time participant in both the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Mid-Amateur, Young has proven that he’s much more than a novelty narrative. The 27-year-old Bethel Park alum came from behind to top a strong field in the 35th Western Pennsylvania Mid-Amateur, posting a 3-under total over 36 holes Tuesday at Longue Vue Club in Verona.

Young was tied for fifth after the morning 18 of this marathon event, as his 1-over 71 in Round 1 left him six strokes back of Rick Stimmel. Starting on the back nine in the afternoon, Young didn’t grab a share of the lead until he eagled the par-5 fourth, the highlight of the afternoon 66 that boosted him to his first WPGA title.

“On the first 18 I thought I was class, but just hit a couple of bad shots,” said Young, who also contended in the previous two West Penn Mid-Ams. “I knew I was hitting it fine and I felt good on the greens. I started to see a couple of putts drop and that was big for me.”

Stimmel, a multi-event winner this summer, was one of many talented players Young had to outlast over the long haul at Longue Vue.

This year’s Pennsylvania Open winner Jimmy Ellis also charged in the afternoon, shooting 67 to nab solo second at 2 under overall. Last year’s WPGA Stroke Play champ Kevin Koerbel was 4 under after the first 18 before falling into a tie for third at 1 under. And, not to be forgotten, defending tourney winner and former U.S. Mid-Amateur champ Nathan Smith shot 1 under in the morning and finished just three strokes back in the end.

Young said his experience playing 36-hole events for high stakes helped him strike a balance between urgency and complacency in chasing his first Birmingham Trophy.

“I’ve played in enough U.S. Am qualifiers and things like that,” Young said. “You try to stay patient, but there’s so many good players. You know you just need to make birdies. Make any big numbers at all and it’s going to be tough.”

The fact that Young ended up on top is rather improbable, considering he sat at 3 over after six holes. But a birdie on the par-5 eighth was merely the first of 10 par-breakers he’d post over the final 30 holes.

To hear Young tell it, though, the most important hole he played resulted in a simple par, as he rebounded to make a 4 on his second crack at the sixth hole — a few hours after a double bogey there put him in an early hole.

“I had to get redemption on 6,” Young said. “I figured 3 under would get into a playoff.”

Instead, after rolling in one more birdie on the par-5 eighth, that 3-under number was good for a milestone win. For a player who maintains aspirations of competing nationally at the amateur and mid-amateur (25 and over) levels, this was a validation of the work he’s been putting into his game.

Part of that effort includes practice sessions at Sunset Golf with pro Dave Scandrol and regular competition at Nemacolin Country Club with a group of gamers that includes two-time defending WPGA Amateur champion Connor Schmidt.

“When I’m playing with him, I have to be at my best,” Young said. “It helps playing with someone like that. He’s a good friend.”

Young also noted his regular caddying loops at St. Clair Country Club help him stay mentally engaged with a sport that’s gradually pushed his other former pastimes, like hockey, further to the margins.

As for the rest of a waning 2020 competitive season, Young still has another big event on his calendar: Next week’s Pennsylvania Mid-Amateur at Huntingdon Valley Country Club near Philadelphia.

(Maybe he’ll bump into Claude Giroux or Sean Couturier in the clubhouse, since the Flyers suddenly have more free time. Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Indiana CC head pro Zack Turek (purple shirt) and assistant Talon Kriebel pose with the spoils. (TRI-STATE PGA)

TRI-STATE PGA

While the amateurs were sweating it out on a scorching day at Longue Vue, many of the area pros teed it up at Allegheny Country Club in Sewickley Heights for the Tri-State PGA’s Club Car Head Pro/Assistant Pro Championship.

After 18 holes of better-ball play, the event required a three-way playoff to break a tie at 8 under, with the Indiana Country Club tandem of Zack Turek and Talon Krieber coming out on top to split the $2,500 top prize.

On the strength of a 5-under 30 on the back nine, Turek and Krieber edged Lone Pine Golf Club’s Michael Stone and Kyle Bennett, and Oakmont CC’s Devin Gee and Brendan King. The home-course team of John Aber and Drew Bohn tied for fourth with St. Clair CC’s Jay Mull and Gunnar Riley; both teams shot 7 under.

Next Tuesday, the TSPGA tour heads north to Avalon Field Club in New Castle for the Pro-Pro Championship.

A 15-year veteran of sports media, Matt Gajtka (GITE-kah) is the founding editor of PGN. Matt is a lifelong golfer with a passion for all aspects of the sport, from technique to courses to competition. His experience ranges from reporting on Pittsburgh's major-league beats, to broadcasting a variety of sports, to public relations, multimedia production and social media.

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