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
SOUTHPOINTE – Southpointe Golf Club hadn’t had rain for 48 days until Wednesday night and Thursday morning when it rained a bunch.
As a result the West Penn Golf Association’s Mid-Am Championship was delayed three times in order to get the course ready. As a result of those delays, it became obvious that playing 36 holes wasn’t going to happen before dark.
So the 30th playing of the Mid-Am became a 27-hole event.
Unusual, certainly, but not unprecedented. Sean Knapp won on Thursday and guess what? If there had been enough light to play 54 holes, Knapp still probably would have won.
That’s how well he played after getting off to what Knapp said was his typical slow start.
But in the end, Knapp won the Mid-Am for a record ninth time.
“Winning any tournament nine times is a big deal,” Knapp admitted. “But we have a great Mid-Am field in the West Penn. That’s why you’ve seen some go out of the area to qualify for the USGA Mid-Am because it’s so good here. The competition here is really good.”
To put Knapp’s comment about the depth into perspective, the 30-year-old Mid-Am has been won, in addition to Knapp’s nine, John Jones and Arnie Cutrell 3, Frank Fuhrer III, Marshall Marraccini and Nathan Smith twice. That means six players have won 21 of the 30 events.
Knapp played a solid, if not spectacular, 18 holes, making five birdies and three bogeys for a 70. He bogeyed the third hole and then birdied the fifth and sixth. He bogeyed the 12th and 13th and birdied the 14th, 16th and 17th.
That left him a shot behind Mitch Mercer of Wexford, who posted a three-birdie, no-bogey round of 69. Mercer was solid in the nine-hole portion of the day, with the exception of the sixth hole, on which he posted a seven. That gave him 38, which was not nearly enough to catch Knapp.
“I was OK on my front nine in the morning, 35,” Knapp said. “I made a couple pars to start the back and then as I’ve been doing, I made bogeys on 12 and 13. I get to the 14th and just roped a 6-iron right over the flag, but it hit the green and went off the back. But I chipped it in from back there and then things started to click again. I found a way to bring it back strong. I don”t know that I missed one green the rest of the way.”
He birdied 16 and 17 to shoot 70 and went out for the final nine holes and birdied the second, third and sixth holes for a 33 that made him a winner by four shots.
Knapp and Mercer were the only players to finish under par.
“Really, there wasn’t anything different today,” the 53-year-old said. “There have been times in my career when I had a great short game and my ball-striking wasn’t great. Other times my ball-striking was good and the short game wasn’t there. It’s not often they’ve been married together like they are.”
The victory was Knapp’s first of the year and his first competitive appearance since the West Penn Amateur in June.
“A lot of things got in the way of me playing, but I thought I could see things coming together earlier,” Knapp said.
An interesting aspect to Knapp’s victory involves his upcoming induction into the West Penn Golf Association Hall of Fame.
“Getting into the Hall of Fame is really special,”” Knapp said. “And going in with Nathan (Smith), who’s certainly not done winning, makes it even more so. I didn’t want to go not winning. It’s great to go in, but I wanted to go in swinging.”
Rick Stimmel of Pittsburgh finished a shot behind Mercer in third with Smith and Eric Poplowski of Freedom two shots behind Stimmel.