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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Rolla trio in Missouri Amateur

  • Steelman, Martin brothers open medal play on Tuesday.
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  • For Mark Martin, it’s a brand new experience.
    For Michael Steelman, it’s a return trip.
    For Chris Martin, it’s routine.
    The Martin brothers and Steelman are Rolla golfers who are scheduled to compete in the 107th Missouri Amateur Championship, which is to begin Tuesday and run through June 29 at Norwood Hills Country Club’s West Course in St. Louis (set up at 6,840 yards, par 36-35-71).
    There will be 147 golfers competing in this year’s Amateur. It’s the fourth time that Norwood Hills will host the event.
    The tournament will begin with a 36-hole stroke play on Tuesday and Wednesday.
    After stroke play the low 64 players will move on to the match play portion of the tournament, beginning on Thursday.
    The final, 36-hole match to determine the champion will take place on Sunday, June 29.
    The defending Amateur champion, Joey Johnson of Ozark, and runner-up Ryan Zech, of Kearney, are included in this year’s field.
    Other former Amateur champions in the field include Skip Berkmeyer (1999, 2009, 2011), Brad Nurski (2010), Ben Godwin (2003, 2006) and Don Bliss (1972, 1983, 1986, 1988).
    The youngest player in this year’s field is 15 and the oldest 64.
    Chris Martin, Mark Martin and Steelman have not played the Norwood Hills course before, and will get their first look at it during Sunday’s practice round.
    The Rolla trio all advanced to the Amateur in the June 6 qualifier at Meadow Lake Acres Country Club in New Bloomfield. Chris Martin shared medalist honors with two other golfers, shooting even-par 72, while Mark Martin shot 74 and Steelman 76.
    On Tuesday Chris Martin is to open medal play at 12:36 p.m. and Steelman at 12:58 p.m. off the No. 1 tee while Mark Martin begins at 2:15 p.m. off the No. 10 tee.
    Old Hat
    The all-time record for most Missouri Amateur appearances is Bob Cochran, with 31.
    That may not be a goal for Chris Martin. But for a guy who just graduated college last month and is looking for a job, he’s well on his way.
    When Chris Martin tees off Tuesday he will begin his SEVENTH Missouri Amateur.
    His first was when he was either a freshman or sophomore in high school. “I can’t remember,” Chris said.
    And the last two times he played in the Amateur, Chris advanced to match play - in 2011 and 2012. He did not attempt to qualify last year, as he was part of the wedding party for the marriage of his former teammate on the William Woods golf squad, J.D. Nash.
    He returned to the field in a big way earlier this month, with his meet-medalist performance in the qualifier.
    Page 2 of 3 - “I’d like to (feel like a Amateur regular),” Chris Martin said. “But my golf game is not at that level right now. I don’t feel confident in my game right now. Too streaky.”
    Martin recently finished his William Woods golf career, helping the Owls make their third trip to the NAIA National Tournament in the past four years. William Woods tied for third in this year’s national meet. Martin placed third individually in the Heart of America Conference Preview Tournament and was fifth at the Owls’ home tourney this spring.
    “I played well this spring,” he said. “(But) I made some big numbers, which hurt my scores.”
    He says his game will have to gain more consistency if he is to return to match play this year.
    “I’m putting very, very well,” Chris said of his current game. “And I’ve been driving well. I played (Oak Meadow Country Club) the other day and hit 13-of-13 fairways - I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.
    “I’m struggling getting the ball on the greens, though.”
    Chris doesn’t mind tackling a course that is new to him.
    “After a practice round I feel really comfortable on a course I’ve not played,” he said. “Sometimes I think it’s better; I play more conservative on a course I don’t know that well.”
    Back-To-Back
    It’s the second straight year that Steelman as made the Amateur field. And in his inaugural Amateur last year he advanced to the second round of match play before being eliminated by one of the tournament’s all-time greats - Berkmeyer.
    That experience plus his freshman season of collegiate golf - he’s a member of the Columbia College golf squad - has built confidence as Steelman enters his second Amateur.
    “I feel much more comfortable going into this tournament,” said Steelman, who was a state-qualifying golfer and teammate of Mark Martin at Rolla High School as well as the Bulldog football team’s starting quarterback as a senior in 2012. “Last year was more of a learning experience. I’ll play the best I can and try to avoid big numbers. I might be a little more conservative than I would normally be. For the most part I’ll play my regular game.
    “(The collegiate season) helped a lot mentally; I got more used to tournament play. My short game got better in college. But mostly it was the mental game. I starting feeling like a golfer playing golf instead of a football player playing golf.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Steelman says he’s looking forward to playing the course during Sunday’s practice round.
    “One of my roommates in college is from St. Louis and he said the course is pretty long and the greens are always in good shape, but definitely tricky,” Steelman said. “I’m looking forward to it. My dad said Ben Hogan won his first major there.
    “I’ve really been working hard on my short game lately. I’m feeling pretty good going in.”
    First-Timer
    Mark Martin has played in some big junior tournaments and as a RHS Bulldog was a two-time qualifier for the Missouri Class 4 State Championships, including this spring. However, the Amateur will be a different beast.
    “It feels good playing in it,” said Mark Martin, who, like his brother, will play on the golf team at William Woods. “It’s my first real big tournament.
    “I’ve had a few tournaments where match play was included, like the Junior Amateur and the Junior Southern Cup.”
    Entering the Amateur Mark says he feels good about his game.
    “I’m very comfortable,” he said. “I’m putting well and hitting the irons very well. If I did need to work on something it would be driving fairways and chipping out of the long rough.
    “I plan to play smart. I’m not going to hit stupid shots. But in match play, if your opponent hits an aggressive shot, that’s where you might change your game plan.”

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