Mike Van Sickle shot a 4-under 68 in the final round.
By Paul Zeise Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
FARMINGTON, Pa. -- Mike Van Sickle tried hard not to look at the leader board when he made the turn Tuesday in the final round of the West Penn Open at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort's Mystic Rock. He knew he was in the mix but didn't want any added pressure to his round.
But when someone called his name as he walked away from the ninth green, he looked up and -- much to his chagrin -- saw the leader board. He was pleasantly surprised to find out that not only was he in the lead, but he also was ahead by three strokes.
Van Sickle then bogeyed No. 10, but that was the only thing he did wrong as he shot a 4-under 68 and cruised to an easy victory by six shots over second-place finisher Ryan Sikora of Greensburg.
Van Sickle, from Pine, was the only player to shoot under 70 in the final round of the 54-hole event and was one of six players to break par in the round.
"The course was very difficult today, way different than [Monday]," said Sikora, who began the final round as the co-leader and one shot ahead of Van Sickle but shot 3-over 75 and had to settle for second. "As easy as I thought it played Monday, that's how difficult it was today. So for Mike to shoot in the 60s like that is really impressive but not surprising because he is a great player.
"The tees were back today, the pins were tucked away so it was very difficult to make birdies. So my hat is off to Mike, because 68 was an incredible round today. I actually felt like I played well, to be honest, I just missed a few opportunities."
It was the first West Penn win for Van Sickle and his first win as a professional. He said that except for a few anxious moments on No. 10 -- after he saw the leader board and let his nerves get the best of him -- he felt very good all day and that he could have scored even better.
"I really just kept making it easy on myself by giving myself a look after look and was able to drop a few [birdie putts]," said Van Sickle, who also won the WPIAL title at Mystic Rock his senior year at Pine-Richland. "I tried hard not to look at the board because I felt with how good everyone was playing, it was going to take a 60s round to win and I wanted to focus on just making birdies.
"I didn't want to look at the board, but my dad asked me if I needed anything and I looked up to tell him I needed water, and when I looked up to tell him, I saw the scoreboard and somehow I was up three. ... I started to feel [pressure] but I did a really good job after that of containing my emotions and staying within myself."
Pittsburgh's Trent Karlik and Erie's Austin Romeo tied with two others at 2 under and were the co-champions among the amateur field.
Romeo began the day four shots ahead of Karlik, but Karlik shot a 1-under 71 while Romeo carded a 75 and needed to make an excellent chip to save par on 18 in order to grab his share of the amateur title.
Karlik, who is a computer science teacher at Montour High School, was excited to win the amateur trophy, even if he had to share it, because he felt he played well all three rounds and it was nice to be rewarded for consistency.
"I only play a few events every year because I work full time as a teacher, and then in August, I like to take a vacation to the beach. But I've felt like I've played some of my best golf recently, so this was a nice end in a big event like this," Karlik said. "I think I hit the ball well, I drove it well with my boom stick and kept myself out of trouble.
"It is funny, though, you look at those pros and they are playing a different game than I am and it is awesome to get to compete with them. But for me to come back from down four strokes going into today to at least tie was awesome."
Penn Trafford's Daniel Obremski began the day tied with Sikora at 9 under but shot a 77 and finished in third place at 212.
Sikora said Obremski should win the integrity award because he gave himself a 2-shot penalty for moving a leaf he thought might have moved his ball slightly.
"Really, he should be commended, because I didn't see the ball move to be honest, but he wanted to err on the side of enforcing a rule," Sikora said. "He really tied me for second without that penalty."
Of the penalty, Obremski said: "I just really wasn't sure if the ball moved or not and it was eating at me for the next few holes so I called the penalty on myself. It was the right thing to do. I am disappointed with third, but I played some good golf and to be the 36-hole leader meant I did some good things."