Being able to hold the Association’s oldest and most significant championship at Oakmont is a privilege. As we walked out of the club behind 18 green on Monday night with the sun at just the proper angle, the view of holes 12, 14, and 18 with high grass glistening and wispy clouds in the blue sky, one couldn’t help but think of this course’s incomparable beauty. This view may be the best golf course photo op ever.
Famed writer Herbert Warren Wind called Oakmont ‘an ugly brute’ during the 1962 US Open when Jack Nicklaus beat Arnold Palmer in a playoff. Wind’s comment may have resulted in Oakmont’s beginning its tree ‘beautification’ program. A few members also belonged to Augusta National; they were instrumental in the arboreal additions. Tree removal began about ten years ago. The course received rave reviews during the 2003 US Amateur for its new (and old) look, particularly from NBC’s Johnny Miller. The course keeps getting better. Vistas from #4 tee and #18 tee are spectacular.
A few notes on the 2011 champion–David Brown. This is his second Amateur title, the other coming in 2004 at Nemacolin CC, with a record breaking performance of 202, eight under par. At Oakmont his total was 222, the second highest winning score since 1983 and tied for the highest in relation to par–twelve over. McKeesport’s Marshall Marraccini won the1983 Amateur at Sewickley Heights, with 76 three times edging Rocco Mediate just before he turned pro. At age 50 Brown is among the oldest ever to win the West Penn Amateur.
David Brown has won the 2006 Spring Invitational at Valley Brook, 2003 Mid-Amateur at Lake Shore, two Amateurs previously mentioned, and medalist honors in the Jamison Cup at Allegheny. He was runner-up in last year’s West Penn Open at St. Clair, his home club. He won the Father & Son with Jesse at Uniontown and the Four-Ball with Rob Watterson at Totteridge, both in 2002. He has advanced thru USGA Open Locals, Amateur Sectionals, and Mid-Amateurs on several occasions. He competes in his first USGA Senior Open Sectional at Butler on June 30. Brown reached the round of sixteen in the 2002 Mid-Amateur at The Stanwich Club, Greenwich, CT, surviving a playoff then beating one of the medalists in the first round. He has been a top five amateur player in this area most of the past fifteen years. For longevity and excellence he is in an elite group with contemporaries Sean Knapp, Nathan Smith, John Jones, and Arnold Cutrell. His history has been that the tough conditions are usually to his advantage. He may the area’s best bad weather player, not surprising since he is known to play St. Clair on days that keep most golfers in front of their TV sets.
The 36-hole cut was 158 a new record high, beating the previous 156 at Oakmont for the 1999 Amateur. Next was last year’s 153 at Sewickley Heights. Another way to look at this cut is that if a player recorded par/bogey every two holes on Monday, he would have played on Tuesday.
It’s not surprising the highest scores in the Amateur occur either at Oakmont or Sewickley Heights. One exception is that for the two Amateurs at Sewickley Heights, Marshall Marraccini shot 76-76-76–228 to win in 1983, followed by Nathan Smith’s record 71-70-68–209, seven under par, nineteen strokes better than Marraccini’s 228, the second best winning Amateur score in relation to par. This is more impressive in light of the high cut of 153.
There is no substitute for great weather. Two days with temperatures in the 65-75 range at Oakmont with a little cloud cover was indeed fortunate.