Dave Brown, 53, rides strong 2nd round to victory at West Penn Mid-Amateur Championship

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WEIRTON, W.Va. -- Dave Brown was walking to the clubhouse after opening the 36-hole West Penn Mid-Amateur Championship with a 1-under 71, two shots behind his playing partner, Nathan Smith.

Reminded that he was very much in the hunt in the tournament for players 25 and older, Brown shook his head and didn't seem so sure.

"It's tough when you're chasing a thoroughbred," Brown said.

The reference was to Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and the only player from Western Pennsylvania ever to be a two-time member of the U.S. Walker Cup team. But Brown, a St. Clair member and a three-time winner of the West Penn Amateur, found plenty of giddy-up to catch Smith and everyone else.

Brown, 53, went out after a 2½-hour rain delay at Williams Country Club and shot a second-round 68 to finish at 5-under 139, good for a one-shot victory over three players -- Greensburg amateur Arnie Cutrell, Artie Fink Jr. of Johnstown and Mike Marron.

After beginning the second round with a bogey, Brown ran off six birdies -- four on the front nine -- to pass Smith and win the West Penn Mid-Am for the second time.

"It was unusual for that to happen, but it happened," said Brown, the oldest player to win the West Penn Amateur.

"I'm just mesmerized by how good a putter Nathan is and watching him roll a golf ball better than I ever have or ever could.

"Yet the putts didn't drop for him."

Smith made four birdies in his morning round of 69, committing his only mistake when he made a bogey at the 238-yard par-3 sixth.

After looking as though he might charge to another title with a birdie on the opening hole in the afternoon, Smith shot a 74 that included a double bogey at the final hole.

Smith finished at 1-under 143, tied with Ron DeNunzio Jr. and Kevin Heher.

Rick Stimmel, the first-round leader with 68, shot 73 in the afternoon to finish at 3-under 141.

"Dave played great, he really did," Smith said.

"He got to 5-under pretty quick and played solid the rest of the way."

Smith was lucky to be playing.

While driving on Interstate 80 to his parent's house Friday night, Smith hit a bear that ran into the road, severely damaging his car but doing little harm to himself.

"It was a massive bear, and I had to accelerate to avoid hitting him head on," Smith said. "It took out the front half of the car.

"If I hit it head-on, I might have been really, really hurt. But I got away, the bear got away, all good."

Smith is the defending champ in the two-day, 36-hole Tri-State Open that begins Monday at New Castle Country Club, but he won't be there to defend his title because he will be competing in a 36-hole sectional qualifier in Purchase, N.Y., trying to get into the U.S. Open.

Smith has a 10-year exemption into a sectional qualifier after winning the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur championship for a record fourth time.

Stimmel, a member at Diamond Run, has the distinction of being the last player from Western Pennsylvania to go through local qualifying and make it to the U.S. Open, having done so in 2000.

But, after opening with a 68 that included five birdies, Stimmel double-bogeyed his opening hole in the afternoon and never recovered. He made four birdies, but bogeyed two of the final six holes, including No. 18, to finish two back.

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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