Weldon wins U.S. Amateur qualifer to earn berth in USGA’s top tournament in August
By: Warren Mayes
Kyle Weldon left no doubt about earning a berth in the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship.
There were three spots open in the local qualifying for the U.S. Amateur Golf Championship and the Parkway South graduate stamped his passport by winning the two-day tournament.
Playing in hot, muggy conditions at Gateway National Golf Links in Madison, Ill., Weldon shot a 36-hole total of 140 to finish first. Weldon will be a sophomore this fall at Kansas State.
“It was a pretty incredible feeling,” Weldon said about winning. “I have worked very hard on my game the past couple of weeks and it feels great to have hard work pay off in such big way.”
The title is one of his career highlights.
“It’s definitely one of my top three wins,” Weldon said. “It feels really good to win such an important event by three shots in such a strong field.”
Wes Hillen, of Columbia, Ill., and veteran Ted Moloney, of St. Louis, tied for second by shooting 1-over par 143. Hillen will begin his senior year at Millikin University next month. Moloney, 39, has been enjoyed a solid amateur career in the area.
Those two along with Weldon three earned a spot in the USGA’s top championship.
The U.S. Amateur Championship will be held Aug. 13-19 at Cherry Hills Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, Colo.
It’s a big accomplishment to get to play in the tournament
“It says that I am one of the top 316 amateurs in the U.S. right now,” Weldon said.
Weldon shot a 71 on the second day to finish at 2-under. He trailed Wils Hawn, of Waterloo, by a stroke after the first round of play. Hahn will be a junior at Illinois State University this fall.
“I felt great about my round the first day,” Weldon said. “I struggled at the beginning of the round but steadied myself with birdies on five and eight. On the back nine, my putter caught fire and it seemed like I couldn’t miss. Twelve putts on the back helped me to post the 2-under 69, which I knew was going to put me into great position for the second day. I was just looking to put myself in good position for the second day.”
In the final round, Weldon played steady all day. He hit 10 out of 13 fairways and hit 16 out of 18 greens. Being focused helped him.
“Overall my mental game was the key for the day,” Weldon said. “I wanted to just stay focused on the present, give myself good looks at birdie, and not get ahead of myself which I feel I did very well.”
Weldon grabbed the lead on the fifth hole when he made a birdie and Hawn made bogey. Hawn finished fourth.
Getting the lead was not on Weldon’s mind. He wanted to keep playing as well as he could.
“I wasn’t actually thinking specifically about the lead during the day because you really never know what other players are doing on the course,” Weldon said. “I was just focused on staying in the moment, hitting fairways, greens, and just giving myself good looks at birdie.”
Weldon continues what has been a successful year thus far, having a great freshman campaign at Kansas State. This summer, he advanced to U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying this spring. He also played well in the Missouri Amateur, the Missouri Golf Association’s top tournament.
“My game has been pretty consistent this summer. Making it the U.S. Open sectional was pretty special, and to play with Stephen Ames during the tournament made it that much more special,” Weldon said. “Making it to the sweet 16 of the Missouri Amateur for the second year in a row was also a very fun experience and to add this week on top of everything is a huge bonus.
“My game is just now starting to come on at the right time and I am very excited for the upcoming year of golf. I plan to work very hard in the upcoming weeks to sharpen up my game for the tough challenge at the U.S. Amateur.”
Making the USGA’s top event is important to Weldon.
“I am extremely excited for the U.S. Amateur,” Weldon said. “It feels great to finally break through. I have been so close in the past losing in a playoff for the Junior Am in 2010, being the second alternate this year for the U.S. Amateur Public Links this summer, and making to the sectional for the U.S. Open.
“It is very special and hopefully the first of many to come.”
Naturally, Weldon wants to play well at the tournament. However, he also wants to soak up the experience.
“I expect to have fun, stay in the moment and give myself the best chance to shot the lowest possible score I can, and see where that puts me,” Weldon said. “If at the end of the two rounds, I play well enough to make match play then I feel anything can happen.”
Weldon will play in the Metropolitan Amateur that will be held Aug. 2-5 at Old Warson Country Club.
Then, he’s off to the U.S. Amateur.
After that, it’s back to school and textbooks for Weldon. Kansas State opens the fall semester Aug. 20.