West/North Xtra: Montour teacher from West View is red hot on district links

AMATEUR GOLF

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Trent Karlik got a phone call from his friend Ryan Fichter Monday morning, asking him if he was interested in being a last-minute replacement -- literally -- for a member of Fichter's foursome in the Ross/West View EMS Golf Scramble at Diamond Run Golf Club in Ohio Township.

"I live in West View, so I figured I could fly up there real quick," Karlik said.

Most of the people Karlik was playing against had no idea who Karlik was. Little did they know they were playing against one of the top amateur golfers in Western Pennsylvania.

Karlik's team went on to win the tournament, but the victory paled in comparison to the significance of his finish in the West Penn Open at Mystic Rock in Farmington, Fayette County, less than a week earlier. Karlik shot a 2 under in the three-day tournament, which tied him for third place overall and made him the co-champion among the amateur field.

"In the West Penn Open, you're playing a lot of mini-tour pros who go around and travel [to tournaments]," Karlik said. "For me, even to compete with these guys and being next to their names is a significant achievement."

It was a great start to the summer for Karlik, a computer science teacher at Montour High School who had just completed the school year a week earlier. The result was especially impressive because Karlik doesn't compete in tournaments nearly as often as other top amateurs.

"It's sometimes just a hobby gone good," said Karlik.

Karlik, 34, is a 1997 Montour graduate who was an all-conference golfer at Robert Morris. He also holds a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon.

Due to his job and a limited amount of personal days, Karlik rarely plays competitively from the fall through the spring. He doesn't belong to any country clubs, as he is more than happy to call North Park Golf Course his home.

In addition to his fine showing at the West Penn Open, Karlik won the Pittsburgh City Amateur Championship at Bob O'Connor Golf Course at Schenley Park earlier this month.

Karlik's success has extended far beyond the Pittsburgh area. He's played in the U.S. Amateur Championship twice -- in 2004 at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., and in 2009 at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.

Karlik will get a chance to attain one of his biggest goals later this summer.

"My individual goal is to make it to match play in a USGA event," he said. "I've been to about seven [USGA events]. I want to see how I do against some of those guys in match play."

Karlik qualified for the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, scheduled for July 15-20 at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Va. After two rounds, the top 64 players advance to match play. Karlik also played in the tournament last year, but shot a pair of 75s and finished 93rd overall. The winner gets invited to next year's Masters.

In mid-May, Karlik played in a U.S. Open local qualifier at Grove City Country Club. The top four players would advance to sectional qualifying, but Karlik fell short after shooting 5-over par.

While the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship is heavy on Karlik's mind, it's just one of several tournaments he'll compete in before the school year begins. Among them is the West Penn Amateur Championship Monday and Tuesday at Butler Country Club.

Karlik might not have the tournament experience as most of the other top golfers he plays against, but his understanding of the game has allowed him to compete with the best.

"Everything has paid off throughout the years," he said. "Golf is kind of fun to me. I'm a lot more mature than I used to be. Experience does pay off. It's just been a lot more easy the past couple of years for sure."

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