SUMMIT TWP — Hiland Golf Course proved friendly to Brent Rodgers during the 25th annual Butler Eagle Amateur Open Sunday.
The 23-year-old Cranberry Township native is known for being long off the tee — and the course welcomed such drives.
“I average 350 (yards) or so with my drives,” Rodgers said. “This course isn't super long and it doesn't play tight.
“I definitely used that to my advantage. It was like, bombs away.”
Rodgers shot a 3-under-par 67 to win the Eagle Amateur for the first time. He beat out defending champion Jeremy Enslen — a former Butler High School golfer — by two strokes.
Both played in the afternoon session. There were 135 golfers in the field overall.
“This is the fourth time I've played in this event and I've finished as high as third before,” Rodgers said. “It feels good to finally finish one off.
“No holes really stand out. I just played a consistent, solid round.”
Rodgers — a former Robert Morris University golfer — birdied the Nos. 1, 4, 7, 8, 10 and 11 holes. That enabled him to survive consecutive bogeys on Nos. 13, 14 and 15.
Mars resident Casey Morrow — a 2017 Shady Side Academy graduate and current member of the Bucknell University golf team — won the women's division with a 72. That was seven strokes better than runner-up Mara Shingleton.
Jim Sekel of Adams Ridge was the only golfer in the morning session to shoot par. His 70 was good enough to win the seniors (age 50 and over) division title.
A member at Sewickley Heights Country Club, Sekel played Hiland for the first time.
“The course played fair,” Sekel said after the morning session. “I'm surprised no one broke par, though.
“Even-par's not gonna hold up. Someone's gonna beat it.”
He was right.
Enslen made a valiant effort in trying to become the only golfer in Eagle Amateur history besides Sean Knapp to win the event in consecutive years. He drove from Uniontown to participate in the tournament,
“It's been 20 years since I've played here ... Not since high school,” he said.
Enslen was at even par with two holes to play before scoring a birdie on No. 17.
“That was the critical hole for me,” he said. “The score to beat (out of the morning) was even par, so I had to birdie that hole to get under.
“It was hard to read the greens. Some were soft, some were dried out. Finishing 1-under gave me a shot, if nothing else.”
Mike Marron and Sekel tied for third overall, three strokes behind.
Women's champion Morrow played in the Eagle Amateur for the first time. She entered the tournament with a 1-handicap, making her the lowest-handicapped female golfer in Eagle Amateur history.
“My dad saw a newspaper article about this tournament and thought it'd be fun,” Morrow said. “I played a scramble here a year ago or so.
“It's hard to find good tournament competition with women golfers around here. I played with two others (Mara Shingleton and Fontaine McFeaters) and it was very competitive.
“This was fun. I'd love to come back and play again next year,” she added.
Committee member Rob Voltz said the championship flight field of 43 golfers was the smallest in Eagle Amateur history while the 20 golfers in the third flight was the largest.
“Our overall numbers were good today and the weather was perfect,” Voltz said. “Hiland did a great job preparing for this event. It was good to come back here.”
Hiland hosted the Eagle Amateur for the first time since 2011.
Jesse Badgett and Nathan Hoshack both shot 71 to lead the first flight. John Bowser won the second flight with a 76 while Dale Taylor topped the third flight with an 80.