Former Cal (Pa.) hockey player qualifies for U.S. Amateur
When Brett Young arrived at Cal (Pa.) as a freshman four years ago, he brought his golf clubs with him, but he knew hockey was the sport he wanted to play.
So his golf bag sat in the corner of his dorm room as he enjoyed some fruitful years playing hockey for the Vulcans club team.
Golf was a summer hobby, but in between his four years at Cal, it took on a larger role in his life and has led to a unique path to one of the most prestigious amateur golf tournaments in the world.
Young finished tied for first in a 36-hole sectional qualifier July 18 at Grove City Country Club and earned a spot in the 116th U.S. Amateur on Aug. 14-20 in Los Angeles.
The U.S. Amateur, the oldest golf tournament contested by the USGA, is at Riviera Country Club and Bel-Air Country Club. Young will be one of 312 participants in a two-day stroke-play event. The top 64 will move on to match play, which will be held at Riviera.
Young, who graduated from Cal in May, never played golf collegiately. He never has had a swing coach and had few lessons. He has taken a road less traveled and is excited to see what lies ahead.
“It's really humbling to see all of the names that have played in it,” Young said. “Guys like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Bobby Jones … pretty much any big name in golf has played in it. To be mentioned in the same breath as them is an extremely humbling thing. I'm going to go out there and make it the best experience possible.”
Young played golf and hockey at Bethel Park, but hockey was always his favorite sport, having played it growing up with his father, former Penguins forward Warren Young.
In his freshman year at Cal, Young had a brief thought about trying out for the golf team, but he decided to focus on hockey.
That choice worked out well. Young was an assistant captain for two years and played in the ACHA nationals four times.
Each summer, though, Young's golf game improved. He played with his father at Nemacolin Country Club in Beallsville, where they are members. As the scores got lower he started entering tournaments. He tried to qualify for the U.S. Amateur the last two years but narrowly missed. The results provided confidence he could compete in big tournaments.
“Two years ago in my first qualifier at Quicksilver, I hit the ball well and shot 2-under par,” Young said. “Playing a couple under par and finishing a few shots from making it showed me that I could make it. The second time at Williams Country Club in Wheeling (W.Va.) the top amateur from Canada was there and he crushed the field, so there was really only one spot up for grabs. I still only missed by a couple of shots, and it showed me that I could post good scores.”
The third time turned out to be the charm. Young finished the first 18 holes at Grove City one off the lead with a 3-under 69 and then shot 68 on the final 18 to tie for first, two shots clear of the next competitor.
“I hit the ball really well that day and gave myself a lot of chances. I hit a ton of greens, but I didn't hit too many birdie putts on the first 18,” Young said. “I knew I was hitting the ball well enough that I could post another low number. I just took it shot by shot and tried to hit greens.”
Young credited his caddy, Mike Oakes, a friend and teammate on the Cal hockey team, with keeping him calm during the final round. He will take Oakes with him to California. He also credited his father with getting him to where he is now.
“He's a big part of it,” Young said. “I wouldn't be where I am now without him. I probably wouldn't even be golfing. I play a lot of golf with him, and he's always there watching my tournaments. He'll be there in California.”
Young will leave for Los Angeles on Tuesday and play a few practice rounds before the tournament begins. He plans to enjoy the experience of testing himself against the top amateurs in the world.
“There are going to be a lot of players there that will have swing coaches and played at top colleges,” Young said. “There will be guys there that have played in PGA Tour events on exemptions. It is great company to be in, and I look forward to it.
“It took two solid rounds to get there. That's for sure. Hopefully, I can take that with me to California.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer.