Palmer Jackson turns attention to Oakmont for U.S. Amateur

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Saturday, July 10, 2021 | 11:01 AM


When talking about his summer golf schedule, Murrysville’s Palmer Jackson didn’t seem too worried about qualifying for the United States Golf Association’s Amateur Championship.

He was confident in his ability to qualify for the championship for the fourth consecutive season.

Jackson did what he predicted when he was the medalist at 3-under July 8 at Sunnehanna Country Club at the U.S. Amateur qualifier.

He and three other members of Hannastown Golf Club in Greensburg — Sean Knapp, Mark Goetz and Jim Meyers — will join him at Oakmont Country Club on Aug. 9-15. This is the second time that Jackson, Knapp and Goetz have qualified the same year.

The trio played in the 2019 Amateur at Pinehurst, N.C. Jackson actually made it to the quarterfinals.

But the qualifier turned out to be nerve-wracking for the local players.

Jackson, who attends Notre Dame, played a conservative final round after shooting a 4-under 66 in Round 1. He had the lead and had a few shots on the field, so he played smart.

“This was the most pressure I felt in a long time,” Jackson said. “Having a chance to compete at Oakmont for the U.S. Amateur is pretty special and to have three other guys from Hannastown is awesome.”

Jackson began the final round a shot behind Erik Bertrand. But Bertrand struggled early and Jackson took the lead and maintained it the rest of the way. Bertrand did earn the first alternate spot when he defeated Jay Whitby of Wyoming, Del., in a playoff after a length weather delay.

The top 50 players in the world amateur rankings qualify for the U.S. Amateur. Jackson currently is ranked 110th.

The Franklin Regional grad wants another shot at the U.S. Amateur, especially since he knows the ins and outs of the event. He has played in three previous U.S. Amateurs — 2018 at Pebble Beach, ’19 at Pinehurst and ’20 at Bandon Dunes (Ore.). He made a memorable run to the quarterfinals in ‘19.

This year’s U.S. Amateur carries greater significance because it will be played at Oakmont.

“To win (at Oakmont) would be a dream come true,” Jackson said. “It’s a great time for me. I’m 20 years old, and I know I can only play better. I love Oakmont. It’s one of my favorite courses.”

Jackson was the low amateur at the Frank B. Fuhrer Jr. Invitational last week at Pittsburgh Field Club when he posted rounds of 71, 68, 73 and 68 for a four-round total of even-par 280. He was three behind winner Chase Koepka and Patrick Flavin, who tied at 3-under before Koepka won in a playoff.

“I wanted to be low amateur, yes, but I also wanted to win,” Jackson said. “It would have been nice to do both. It was nice to play well against so many great players.”

Jackson continues to prove he belongs among elite competition. He already has played on the national stage several times this year, including the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship (with college teammate Davis Chatfield) in Wisconsin. The duo reached the semifinals.

He followed that by winning the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s 18th annual R. Jay Sigel Amateur Match Play Championship and placing fourth at the Sunnehanna Amateur, shooting a 6-under par 274.

In the match play event, he defeated Patrick Sheehan, 2 and 1, in the championship. He shot a 7-under par 137 in the qualifier and then defeated Hannastown’s Kevin Fajt (1 up), Grant Gronka (2 and 1) and Nathan Smith (2 and 1).

For as much golf as Jackson has played in his short lifetime — and it’s a lot — he continues to learn.

“I have learned a lot, but I learn more every (competitive round) I play,” he said. “You watch these other guys compete and pick up little things. I am always trying to improve and find an edge.”

Jackson keeps a jam-packed schedule during the summer months. This year is no different.

After the Amateur qualifier, he plans to play in the Westmoreland County Amateur, the Southern Amateur in Mississippi, the West Penn Open at Westmoreland Country Club in Export and the Western Amateur in Illinois.

“All my focus is on the Amateur and Oakmont,” Jackson said.

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