Nine days of golf - U.S. Open, Sunnehanna Amateur & West Penn Amateur: From the desk of Mike Dudurich

Posted June 17, 2016 - By Mike Dudurich,
Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM
Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich

The 9th hole and clubhouse at Oakmont Country Club.

The WPGA has retained Mike Dudurich to write a blog for its website. The opinions and observations contained within are his own and do not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of the Association.

It’s great to be a golf fan in Western Pennsylvania this week and next.

The eyes of the sporting world, of course, are on Oakmont Country Club where the 116th U.S. Open is being contested. With 156 of the best players in the world at this historic site to compete for the nation’s championship, Oakmont will be a very, very tough challenge, even after a first round that punctuated several times by weather days.

The hard rains softened the course, but didn’t make it a great deal easier, setting up a tough final three rounds.

Not all that far away in Johnstown, the 63rd Sunnehanna Amateur began Wednesday with a top field of amateurs playing at Sunnehanna Country Club. Greensburg’s Arnie Cuttrell, Nathan Smith, Sean Knapp, Rick Stimmel, Brian Fajt and Kurtis Shaw are players from Western Pennsylvania competing this week. Nathan Smith (2011) is the only one in that group to win the Sunnehanna Amateur.

And the big-time golf doesn’t end Sunday. Next Monday and Tuesday, the 116th West Penn Amateur at Bedford Springs Resort’s Old Course. Being as old as the U.S. Open is a nice sidelight for the Am, but this is an event that continues to make history every year. For example, Knapp, a seven-time winner of the Am, will look to tie W.C. Fownes as the all-time wins leader with eight.

Trent Karlik is back in the event this year after missing a chance to defend his title because of school obligations. Easton Renwick, who won last year, is recovering from surgery and won’t be able to play.

The addition of Dan Thompson into the field instantly makes it tougher. He won the West Penn Open three times as a professional but has been reinstated as an amateur.

The luckiest guy of the week had to be Pine-Richland High School graduate Mike Van Sickle. He was the first alternate out of the Rockville, Md. sectional qualifier and had to wait until Sunday night, but he eventually got the call from the USGA that he was officially in the U.S. Open field.

Van Sickle got his first practice round off to a flying start, holing his second shot on the 10th hole for an eagle. He then hit his approach shot on No. 11 to a foot.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite so well once the championship began. He made seven bogeys and a double bogey to go with three birdies and finished with 76 in round one.

The only good news was that he was able to complete the round and didn’t get caught up in the traffic jam of players who were not able to finish.