The eight quarterfinalists gathered at Norwood Hills CC Saturday morning to play the four matches that would determine the semifinalists. We saw a sunny day with a strong late morning wind out of the south that would intensify as the day wore on. It was behind the players on the north oriented holes such as one, three, and seven and made them play quite short. However, it bedeviled the players on the many east-west holes at Norwood Hills as it swept across them and added difficulty to club selection and aiming lines.
The first match pitted the defending champion, Joey Johnson of Missouri State U., against Mizzou golfer Michael Wootten. The latter got off to a rocky start with bogies at one, three, and five to fall 4 down. He birdied the sixth, but Johnson answered with a birdie at seven and was never headed. Johnson closed out Wootten 5 & 4 at the 14th.
Defending Missouri Senior Amateur champ Mark Gardiner squared off against Cy Moritz, the #1 player on Central Missouri State’s highly ranked Division II program. Moritz got off to an early two up lead but Gardiner twice got the match back to all square before losing the 14th and 15th. Moritz won 2 & 1 with a par on 17. The players combined for seven birdies on a tough day for scoring featuring lots of difficult hole locations.
The next match saw #2 seed Skip Berkmeyer attempt to win his fourth title at what was his home course for many years. Joe Atkisson, an UMSL senior and the #7 seed, played steady golf and outlasted Berkmeyer in a tight duel. The match turned on the par-five 8th as Berkmeyer could not make par, let alone birdie, after a good drive that set up a chance to reach in two. Atkisson hit a quick hook off the tee and was barely past the teeing ground after his ball hit the trees and came back out where he could at least lay up his second. He did just that, reached the green in three, and won the hole with par to go one up. Skip got things back to all square with a birdie at the 11th, but his bogey at 14 and Atkisson’s birdie at 16 put him two down and led at a 2 down loss on 18. Berkmeyer’s defeat assured us that a college player, not a mid- amateur nor a senior (Gardiner), would win the 107th Missouri Amateur.
The final match in the quarters saw University of Kansas sophomore-to-be Chase Hanna go against Michigan State player Mitchell Rutledge. Hanna got off to a hot start and was two under and three up after seven holes. Rutledge’s par at 14 got him all the way back to all square before he missed a four-footer on 18 to lose one down. Both players are the #1 players on their college teams and will only get better as they continue their college careers.
The afternoon semifinals saw Johnson v Moritz and Atkisson v Hanna to see who would advance to the 36 hole final on Sunday.
Johnson saw his first bit of adversity this week when he lost the 7th and 8th and fell two down to Moritz. He came back with a nice birdie on 9 and “flipped” the match in his favor when Moritz three-putted 13 and 14. Both players parred in from 14 to give Johnson a tight one up win and a spot for the second straight year in the finals.
The second afternoon match saw Hanna get off to a bad start and lose four of the first five holes to the steady Atkisson. Chase got all the way back to all square after 12, only to lose 13 and 14 to Atkisson’s birdie and par. Hanna’s normally solid putting betrayed him as he knocked it close on the 16th and 17th, but failed to convert either to lose 2 & 1. Atkisson made only one bogey all afternoon as he showed that steady wins the day when the wind is up and conditions are tough.
Johnson and Atkisson will meet Sunday morning to determine our 2014 champion over 36 holes at Norwood Hills’ west course. Six players have defended the Amateur title a total of seven times since 1905. Tom Watson is the only player to do it twice, in 1967-8 and 1970-71. The last repeat winner was Mark McBride in 2000-01. Joey Johnson has a chance to become the seventh player to accomplish the feat if he can defeat Atkisson and defend the title he won last year at Blue Hills CC.