Thompson makes comeback to win West Penn Amateur

Posted June 24, 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

Dan Thompson, 116th West Penn Amateur Champion

Dan Thompson certainly knows how to make a comeback.

Thompson decided to become a professional golfer in 2007, working first at Indiana Country Club as an assistant under Dan Braun.

He was at Hannastown Golf Club for a year and then gave one of the mini tours a shot, the ETour.

“The competition was fantastic, but it was kind of an eye-opener for me,” Thompson said. “I came to the conclusion that maybe I just wasn’t prepared to play at that level.”

The three-time West Penn Open champion had a decision to make and he opted to apply for reinstatement as an amateur. That process lasted from 2013 until August 2015 when his reinstatement became official.

And how did Thompson, a Johnstown resident, celebrate his new status?

In his first stroke play event as an amateur, he made a bit of history by winning the 116th West Penn Amateur at Bedford Springs Resort.

Going into the final round five shots behind 36-hole leader Darrin Kowalski of Bethel Park, Thompson set a goal to shoot 67 and see what happened. He did better than that, posting a 66 for a three-shot victory over the trio of Arnie Cutrell of Greensburg, Adam Hofmann of Fox Chapel and Luke Miller of Peters Twp.

In doing so, Thompson became the 12th player in history to have won both the West Penn Open and Amateur. He joins such greats as eight-time champion William C. Fownes, five-time champ Arnold Palmer, four-time winner Nathan Smith and two-time winner Bob Friend.

“That’s pretty cool, it really is,” Thompson, who won the Open in 2007, 2009 and 2012, said. “It really doesn’t sink until you start looking at the names on that trophy and that’s pretty special. I played with Sean Knapp and that’s always a great experience.”

Thompson wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when he teed it up on the old Donald Ross course at Bedford Springs, considering he hadn’t played much competitive golf. He got better with each round, putting up rounds of 71-68-66, including a six-under 29 on the back nine of his 68.

“Starting out I didn’t make that many putts,” he said. “But I told myself to keep hitting greens and the putts would start to fall.”

And that they did. In that 29 were five straight birdies that put him in position to make a run in Tuesday’s final round.

“I think I was in sixth place when we started Tuesday,” he said. “I set my goal as getting to 10-under par and see what that would do.”

Getting to 11-under was more than good enough to seal the deal. Kowalski shot 73 in the final round and couldn’t hang with Thompson’s superb round, which was the round of the day by three shots.

Cutrell made 15 birdies in the three rounds to go along with eight bogeys. Who knows what might have happened had he not bogeyed the 18th hole all three rounds.

“I'm pleased with a second-place finish, especially with this field,” Cutrell said. “My finish in round two and not getting off to a quick start cost me. The caliber of golf keeps getting better at this level. It's so competitive, and that's without Nathan (Smith) being here.”

A dozen players, all under par, finished within 10 shots of Thompson.

There was a five-way tie for fifth place at six-under par. Thomas Steve of Upper St. Clair, Knapp, Latrobe high school sophomore-to-be Brady Pevarnik, Indiana’s Matt Holuta and Kowalski.

The other three players to finish under par were Ligonier’s David Brown and Peters Twp.’s Jimmy Ellis got in at two-under and Plum’s Andrew Reynolds was one-under.