Connor Schmidt navigates swirling winds to claim his first WPGA championship
By Mike Dudurich • April 30, 2018
Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.
BEDFORD – It wasn’t what might be considered a typical finish to a golf tournament, but then it wasn’t a typical day for a golf tournament, either.
On a crystal-clear day at the Bedford Springs Resort’s Old Course, a strong, swirling wind blew almost constantly. To add a bit more excitement to the proceeds, significant gusts appeared out of nowhere and played havoc with the players.
And then there was Jimmy Meyers, a Pittsburgh Central Catholic senior, who eagled the 525-yard, par 5 ninth and birdied the 124-yard, par 3 10th to finish his second round. After an opening-round 70, Meyers made four bogeys and a double-bogey in a second-round 75.
He was the leader in the clubhouse for nearly an hour, after which he realized he had posted one too many bogeys and came up one shot short of Connor Schmidt, who double-bogeyed his final hole to make things even more interesting.
After making three birdies on the front nine of his second round, Schmidt struggled on the back, making three bogeys, one birdie and that end-of-day double.
“I played pretty solid all day, except for the three-putts on the second and third holes on the morning round,” said Schmidt, who lives in Venetia and graduated from Peters Twp. High School. “But I made two doubles on the second 18, including the four-putt at the end. I had an impossible putt there and I really didn’t know where I stood after that.”
Schmidt just finished his sophomore year at Drexel University, where he finished third in the conference championship. His victory Monday came in his first look at the Old Course, which was designed by Donald Ross & A.W. Tillinghast.
“This was my biggest win, no doubt,” Schmidt said.
He’ll go down as one of the youngest winners in the 25-year history of the event and is aware of the names who have previously won the Spring Stroke Play title. Those would include Nathan Smith, a six-time winner, Sean Knapp, who won three times and Rick Stimmel, a two-time winner.
“Thankfully, Nathan wasn’t here,” Schmidt, who was the only player at even par, said with a laugh.
Stimmel finished third at two-over par, Ian Bangor was fourth at four-over and Erik Bertrand tied for fifth with Jake Augustine of Scenic Valley Golf Course at five-over.
It was a tough learning experience for Meyers.
He proved he could play well in tough conditions and how to handle being the clubhouse leader and wait an hour until everyone finished.
“That was really tough,” he said. “Anxiety took over me. I figured when I finished eagle, birdie I had a shot. The biggest thing I learned today? That one shot can make the difference.”
Meyers made four bogeys, a double, one birdie and one eagle.
Knapp posted rounds of 75-76 to finish in a tie for 10th and continues to be amazed by what he sees from the next generation.
“I’m to the point that all of these kids are so good that they could win anytime,” he said. “These players are really good. It’s pretty impressive what they’re doing."
There were 35 rounds in the 80s (two in the 90s) posted in the morning round when the wind was at its strongest. In the afternoon, there were 30 rounds in the 80s (two in the 90s). Nine players either withdrew before the start of the tournament or didn’t complete their rounds.
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.