Cal U. grad prepares for amateur championships

August 10, 2017
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Brett Young shows off his medal that earned him a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championships to be held Aug. 14-20 near Los Angeles.
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Brett Young demonstrates the swing that earned him a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championships to be held Aug. 14-20 near Los Angeles.

Brett Young is sure to see a few movie stars this week. He might even catch a glimpse of Mark Wahlberg.

But Young is most awed and inspired by the thought that he will be following in the footsteps of golf’s greatest legends when he competes at the U.S. Amateur Championship.

The 117th event will be held Aug. 14-20 near Los Angeles. The first two rounds of stroke play will be at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and the Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. All subsequent match-play rounds will be contested at the Riviera, which has hosted one U.S. Open and two PGA Championships. Golf legends such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Tom Watson and Phil Michelson and celebrities such as Dean Martin and Humphrey Bogart have played at the Riviera. Wahlberg, Young was told, is a member of the Bel-Air Country Club.

Young’s other sport

When your father plays for the Pittsburgh Penguins, you grow up playing hockey. Such was the case for Brett Young. The Bethel Park resident, who will be competing in the U.S. Amateur Championships for golf Aug. 14-20 in California, excelled in hockey through college.

“I grew up around (hockey) so I’ve played it since I was young,” said the 24-year-old son of Terri Young.

Though he did not play for Bethel Park High School, golfing instead, Young played travel hockey for the Pittsburgh Predators. Foregoing the junior and prep school circuit, Young enrolled at California University of Pennsylvania and earned his bachelor’s degree in sport management in May.

While he never golfed for his college alma mater, Young served as an assistant captain and two-year forward for the Cal U men’s hockey club. During his tenure, the Vulcans won five league championships and advanced to the national finals five times.

“We had a good program,” said he said. “I loved to play. I grew up with hockey because of my dad. He coached me and I picked up golf because he enjoyed it. He played a lot so I got into it.”

Now that he is embarking on his life’s work, Young wouldn’t mind getting into his dad’s business. This spring, he completed an internship working with youth hockey players at the Island Sport Center on Neville Island.

“I’d love to work for the Pens, but it’s tough after they have won two Stanley Cups,” said Young. “There aren’t a lot of openings.

“Right now, I don’t know what I want to do,” he said.

Playing golf is one option.

“I’d like to see what path it takes me,” he said.

Young’s path, however, has already put him in the touch with greatness and solid contacts. Through hockey, he has met both Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby but he says that he does not idolize any athlete because he has been around them always. “They are all good guys, particularly off the ice, and that’s what I admire most about them.”

By Eleanor Bailey

“The courses are prestigious with many athletes and actors,” said Young. “But just to be on them and to compete in an event that you know that Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods played in is humbling. It’s going to be a great experience.”

Interestingly, Young did not play collegiate golf, choosing to compete in hockey after graduating from Bethel Park High School.

Young’s experience began shortly after the ink dried on his diploma from California University. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sport management in May and two months later qualified for the amateur championship. He made the 312-player field by tying for first place at a sectional held July 18 at Grove City Country Club. The 36-hole qualifier was one of 100 held across the United States and internationally.

Playing in a field of more than 70 golfers, Young tied for first place by shooting a 7-under-par 137.

“I just hit my shots, took advantage of the holes where I knew I could be aggressive for birdies, and just played smart,” Young said.

The 24-year-old son of Warren and Terri Young has competed in three previous qualifiers.

“The past few years gave me confidence,” said Young, who shot his best score ever, 68, in the first round of the qualifier. “I knew what it was about and I knew what to expect.”

Because he was able play the course at Bel-Air, Young anticipates he will know what to expect in the championship. All the amateurs can walk the course and practice on Aug. 12 before the tournament commences with stroke play. After the first two rounds, the field of 312 players will be pared to 64 for match play.

“The best amateurs in the world will be there. The top major college players,” said Young. “It will be a great experience. It will be a great opportunity to test your game on a great golf course and against great players to see just how good you are.”

Having grown up playing hockey all his life, Young is only discovering now just how good he can be in golf. Because he lives near Sunset Golf, he practices at the driving range and takes instruction from Dave Scarndrol, the owner. Young, who says he practices or plays between five to six times a week, also belongs to the Nemacolin Country Club in Beallsville.

“When hockey ended in March, I went right into golf. Hitting balls, working on my swing,” Young said. “But I play more than I practice.”

Regardless, his game has developed to the point where Young says his putting and drives are his strengths and his weakness is his wedge play.

“I’m working on that,” he said.

Young hopes his work will pay off at the amateur championship. His goal is to make the cut and play with the finals group of 64 at the USGA event.

“I will need to play my best,” he said. “We’ll see what happens.”

A lot could happen after the amateur for Young. He said just his participation in the event could open doors for him regarding other events, even sponsorships. He doesn’t have to turn pro but he dreams of that goal. In fact, he is debating pursuing golf first before beginning his career. He said he might move south for the winter, get a job as a caddie and work on his game.

“Then I’ll decide if I want to play and am good enough to go pro,” he said. “Everybody’s dream is to be on the pro tour. That would be a great accomplishment. Obviously, I would love to do that. It takes a lot and it is not easy.

“This will be the best week of golf of my life.”

Eleanor Bailey has been the sports editor at The Almanac since 1982. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism and speech communications.

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