By Mike Gross
Connor Sheehan hasn’t been playing much golf, what with finishing college and student teaching and finding a job.
Given that, steering his way conservatively around Bent Creek Country Club seemed prudent during Friday’s blustery first round of the RBC Wealth Management Lanco Amateur golf championship.
It was good enough to get Sheehan into contention, but not to make him happy.
“I was a little disappointed,’’ he said. “Not that much. It was a tough day. But I was a little bit in that college mindset, where hitting it 50 feet from the hole isn’t OK.’’
So Sheehan got aggressive Saturday, and left the field in his wake. He shot a two under-par 69, for an even par total of 73-69-142 and his second straight Lanco Amateur title.
Brock Fassnacht, a recent Warwick grad headed for college golf at West Chester, shot 70 and finished second alone at 146.
Two twentysomethings with college conference titles on their resumes, Conor Gilbert (Millersvile) and Matthew Burkhart (Messiah) shared third at 148. First-round leader Corey Wenger was fifth at 72-77-149.
Burkhart and Wenger played with Sheehan in Saturday’s final group, and made five bogeys between them on the first five holes. Sheehan, meanwhile, wedged to within five feet at the par-4 third and made birdie, giving himself a working margin he never really gave up.
There were miles to go, of course.
Burkhart smashed a driver to within 20 feet of the hole at the short par-4 seventh and made birdie. Sheehan hit a bad iron into a hazard at the eighth, but then hit a full iron shot to within five feet and made the putt for a critical bogey.
“That one felt really good,’’ he said.
He, “almost missed the ball,’’ on his drive at the par-five ninth, but then crushed a 3-wood from 287 yards to the front edge of the green, from where he two-putted for another birdie.
Another bad drive led to a 30-footer for par at 10, but Sheehan made the putt. The dude can putt. At 12, a par-5, he was over the green in two, but got up-and-down for another birdie.
The suspense was about over, although Fassnacht and Gilbert were trying hard to create some three groups ahead. Gilbert birdied the tough 16th to get to one under for the day, and he and Fassnacht both had good chances at birdies at 17, but missed.
Gilbert left a shot in the bunker at 18 and settled for a double bogey. Fassnacht, who won Lancaster-Lebanon League and PIAA Regional titles in high school, came up with superb 3-wood that left him a manageable eagle putt, but he left it inches short.
“I went into the day thinking three under might give me a chance,’’ said Fassnacht, and except for Sheehan, it would’ve.
Despite the double, Gilbert, about to get married and building a house, was in good spirits.
“I had fun,’’ he said. “It was great to be back in contention again.’’
When it was over, Sheehan studied the championship trophy, on which King Knox’ name is engraved eight times, and Billy Haverstick’s four times in a row.
Sheehan remembered shooting 64 in the first round of the amateur as a teenager in 2015, only to finish with 77 and the thought, “This is the one I really want to win.’’
He’s about to begin a teaching career at Manheim Central, at age 23, which could mean a lot of Lanco golfing summers ahead.
Anyone want to bet that this title will be his last?