OLEAN — Mitch Faulkner had lived this round before … four years ago.
Faulkner, a senior-to-be at Pennsylvania’s Clarion University, who has played in the Southwestern New York-Northwestern Pennsylvania Men’s Amateur Golf Tournament the last six years, joined the elite on Wednesday afternoon at Bartlett Country Club.
The 21-year-old Bradford High alumnus fashioned a one-under-par 69 to earn medalist honors in the tourney’s 83rd renewal.
Faulkner, who plays to a plus-2 handicap at the Pennhills Club — he gives the course two strokes — bested a field of 87 that started the round in morning rain.
Of his effort, he assessed , “I hit a lot of good drives … a lot of fairways. My second shots weren’t the best on a lot of holes, but from my perspective I played pretty well.”
Faulkner, who will be the Golden Eagles’ No. 1 player this coming season, recalled his four birdies.
“I birdied No. 4 with a 30 footer uphill, then birdied 14, 16 and 18 to finish out ... which is funny because when I was in Penn-York, my last round here three years ago (at Bartlett), I birdied the exact same holes to shoot 69. When it was over today, I was like ‘OK, this is a pretty good way to finish.’”
The sports management major, whose father Travis is the BHS golf coach and a physical education teacher in the school system, used to play in the Men’s Amateur for free thanks to his play in the Penn York junior golf league which covers the entry fee of the circuit’s 15 low scorers.
“In the Penn-York it was easier to get in because I was one of the lower averages … now I have to pay $120 and I have to make those $120 worth it,” he said with a laugh.
Faulkner, who won the 2016 John R. Henzel Scholarship, didn’t have much cushion en route to the medal, beating two Bartlett golfers by a stroke.
Seven-time champion Chris Blocher (winner in 1997, ‘99, 2007, ‘10-’13; medalist in ‘99, ‘01, ‘07, ‘15 and ‘17) shot an even-par 70 to tie for second with Kyle Henzel (medalist in 1996; finalist in ‘96 and 2013) whose 20-foot birdie putt on No. 18 lipped out in his bid to tie Faulkner.
Last year’s runner-up, Marcus Aiello (Birch Run), shot a one-over 71 to take fourth and St. Bonaventure senior-to-be, Zach Chaddock (Springville), the defending champion who has won two of the last three Men’s Amateurs and done it by age 21, had a solid 75.
It took an 11-over 81 to make the 32-man Championship Flight — three of the six at that score made it — and one reason likely was the New York State Amateur being played at nearby Crag Burn.
While Chaddock chose to defend his title, three of his St. Bonaventure teammates — juniors Danny Gianniny and Christian Chapman and senior Nolan Ditcher (last year’s Men’s Amateur medalist and a finalist in 2017) — were playing in the NYS tourney at East Aurora.
Normally, all or most of the Bonnies play in the Men’s Amateur.
MEN’S AMATEUR NOTES: The junior medalist was Penn-Yorker Sam Hyman of Holland Hills who shot a 7-over 77. Hyman won last year’s John R. Henzel Scholarship. … It’s rare that a female plays in the Men’s Amateur and when they do, the path is through the Penn-York. This year, Pine Acres’ Elyse Godding earned her way into the field and accounted herself well with a solid 84. ...Zach Chaddock’s dad, Jon, also from Springville, earned some bragging rights on Wednesday. He shot a 2-over 72, three strokes better than his son. And that wasn’t a fluke. Jon was medalist in 2006 and ‘10 and finalist in ‘10 and ‘12. … Tom Crist (Chautauqua, Bemus Point), the 1994 champion, entered at the last minute, and shot a 3-over 73. But he nearly engineered the shot of the day, on 18. He chipped from the rough under a tree and his bid for an eagle rolled over the lip of the cup. He settled for a birdie. … Two other former champs also shot 73, Eric McHone (2003), who now lives in the Charlotte area, and Pennhills’ Dan Reiley (1995). ...There was an unintentional oversight in Tuesday’s Local Notes about the Shootout of Former Champions. This year’s winner Scott Crist (Chautauqua, Bemus Point) won his third Shootout, tying Blocher for the most. But they’re only the most recent three-time winners in the event’s 22 renewals. Six-time champion Dan Stetz and the late John Forrest, a three-time winner, also collected a trio of shootout titles. … After Wednesday’s second round of the NYS Amateur, Gianniny (tie for 26th, 154) and Chapman (tie for 35th, 156) made the cut. Ditcher, with 168, missed the cut of 157. Tied for third in the field is Chris Blythe (Monroe CC) who won the SWNY-NWPA Men’s Amateur in 2015.