Pennsylvania Wins 2009 USGA Men's State Team

Led by Mike Van Sickle (right), 2009 USA Walker Cup member Nathan Smith (left) and Sean Knapp, Pennsylvania claimed the 2009 USGA Men's State Team Championship at the Country Club of St. Albans in suburban St. Louis. (John Mummert/USGA)
By David Shefter
September 25, 2009

Mike Van Sickle, 22, of Wexford carded a 4-under-par 67 in the final round to lead Pennsylvania to a three-stroke victory over Kansas in the 2009 USGA Men’s State Team Championship, conducted on the Lewis and Clark Course at The Country Club of St. Albans in St. Louis, Mo.

Pennsylvania, which also received a 73 from 47-year-old Sean Knapp of Oakmont, had a 54-hole total of 9-under 417 in the 3-count-2 format. Nathan Smith, 31, of Pittsburgh, a member of the victorious 2009 USA Walker Cup Team just 12 days earlier, had a non-scoring 74, but was instrumental the first two days with rounds of 69-68.

Kansas, which had the two lowest rounds of the competition but totaled a 10-over 152 in the second round when the morning wave was plagued by steady rain, made a valiant last-day run at Pennsylvania, thanks to a 67 from 22-year-old Dodge Kemmer of Wichita and a 68 by Jon Troutman, 34, of Spring Hill, who had tied the championship 18-hole record in the first round with a 7-under 64 on the 7,150-yard, par-71 layout.

Illinois finished third at 422, two strokes ahead of both Rhode Island and South Carolina. Mark Anderson, 23, of Beaufort, S.C., was the individual medalist at 7-under 206 with rounds of 65-71-70.

Pennsylvania had finished no better than sixth in its seven previous appearances in the biennial competition, but the long-hitting Van Sickle, a recent graduate of Marquette University, where he was a first-team All-America for the 2008-09 season, helped Pennsylvania pull away from its pursuers over the final nine holes, shooting 3-under 33 on the inward nine.

“When you have two of the best players in the country on your team in Nathan and Mike, it was a matter if I could help,” said Knapp, a 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur semifinalist who won his first USGA title. “Mike is a real horse and Nathan has played great all year. It’s just an honor to be a part of this team. We’re all from the same section (Western Pennsylvania Golf Association), we’ve competed against each other for years and we’re good friends.”

Van Sickle, who turned pro shortly after the event, said: “This is absolutely an awesome way to end my amateur career. These are awesome guys and great players.”

With an afternoon starting time, Pennsylvania got the benefit of the draw and avoided playing in the rain during round two when the low teams from the first round — Kansas, South Carolina and Tennessee — all struggled. Pennsylvania, which started the second round eight shots behind Kansas and six back of South Carolina and Tennessee, shot a 6-under 136 to pull ahead of Rhode Island and Illinois by four shots entering the final round. Smith and Van Sickle each carded 68s to lead the way.

Rhode Island, playing with Pennsylvania the first two rounds, shot 2-under 140, thanks to a 69 from Charlie Blanchard and a 71 from Bobby Leopold. Illinois crept into the final-round grouping with a 69 from recent Mississippi State graduate Carlos Sainz and a 71 by John Ehrgott.

Only 26 teams played the final round as the USGA implemented a cut for only the second time since the event’s inception in 1995. The potential for inclement weather, including a thunderstorm, forced the decision with any team at 9-over 293 or better competing the final day.

But the bad weather never appeared and the nicest day of the three-day event greeted the players and allowed for some low scores.

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