Michael Steelman made his first experience in the Missouri Amateur one to remember.
Steelman and Jared Jordan were two Rolla golfers who competed in the 106th Missouri Amateur golf tournament, held last week at Blue Hills Country Club in Kansas City.
And both Steelman and Jordan survived two rounds of medal play to advance to match play.
In medal play Steelman, a 2013 Rolla High School graduate, finished tied for 34th by shooting eight-over-par 80-72-152 while Jordan tied for 43rd with 76-77-153. The low-64 cutoff for match play was 155.
In the match play Round of 64 the two Rolla players split, with Steelman defeating Garrett Sneed of Chesterfield 4 and 2 and Jordan falling to Jefferson City's Will Nixon 5 and 3.
Steelman ran into a buzz saw in the Round of 32, losing to three-time Amateur champion Skip Berkmeyer of Wildwood 5 and 3.
Berkmeyer would go on to advance to the quarterfinals of match play over the weekend before finally falling to finalist Ryan Zech of Kearney 2 and 1.
In the Amateur 36-hole championship match Sunday, Joey Johnson, from Ozark who plays for the Missouri State golf team, defeated Zech, who plays for the Mizzou golf squad, 7 and 6.
Steelman, who made it to the Missouri Class 4 State Tournament a couple of times for the RHS Bulldogs, including this past spring, had attempted to qualify for the Amateur a couple times previous. He finally got there this year, making the cut in a qualifier June 3 at Twin Oaks Country Club in Springfield.
And an even-par second round sent him to match play.
"I felt pretty good." said Steelman of last week's medal play. "My first day I started with an 80. I knew the second day it would take around a 75.
"My dad caddied for me the second day and we read the putts pretty well. I think I had three birdies and three bogeys; I really didn't make any mistakes. Those greens at Blue Hills were huge and old and had real subtle breaks."
Then came the first round of match play. The goal of every Amateur player is to make match play, for anything can happen in that format. And in the Round of 64 Steelman ran into a strong NCAA Division II player in Sneed, who plays for McKendree University.
"That first match play (against Sneed); it was a grind," Steelman said. "The wind was blowing and the greens were fast. Neither one of us played as well as we could have. It was a matter of outlasting him in the wind. We were tied after nine holes and I starting making some putts from around 10 feet out."
Then the real test came, as Steelman was face-to-face with one of the most successful players in Missouri Amateur history. And Berkmeyer's skill and experience proved much too much.
Page 2 of 2 - "I was talking to my mom about it; if I could have played someone else in the second round and beat him, I don't think I would have wanted to," Steelman said. "I learned what it takes to win at that level. Skip was on a different level. His ball may have been left or right but it was pin-high every time. His ball flight was beautiful."
Steelman, who is a golf student of Rolla's Chad Saladin, said he chatted with Jordan some during the first few days of the Amateur.
"Although we both play at Oak Meadow (Country Club), we don't play a lot together," Steelman said. "He was in high school with my (older) brothers, Sam and Joe.
"But we talked a lot out there (last week). After the first round (of medal play) he said it was going to take 75 to qualify and he was right on the money. Had I shot 75 in the second round and would have just made it."
Now Steelman has to firm up his decision on where he's going to attend college. Wherever it is – and Drury University in Springfield is definitely on the list – Steelman is going to play collegiate golf.
And he feels his Amateur experience will go a long way in preparing him for the next level.
"I wouldn't trade it for anything," he said of last week. "I'm trying to play as many tournaments as I can in the summer, to build up some scare tissue for college."
And for the first time in his athletic career Steelman can solely concentrate on golf. He was a key member of the RHS football team the past three seasons, starting at quarterback his senior campaign.
"That definitely will help," Steelman said of being a one-sport athlete. "I had to bulk up for football. I'll be able to keep a nice size for golf."
Here are the results for Steelman and Jordan during last week's Amateur:
Round of 64 (June 20)
Steelman defeated Garrett Sneed, Chesterfield, 4 and 2.
Jordan lost to Will Nixon, Jefferson City, 5 and 3.
Round of 32 (June 21)
Steelman lost to Skip Berkmeyer, Wildwood, 5 and 3.
Medal Play (June 18-19)
Steelman T-34th, eight-over 80-72-152.
Jordan T-43rd, nine-over 76-77-153.
Medal play winner: Doug Albers, Leawood, Kan., 3-under 141.
Cutoff score: 155.