STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — It’s never easy to hold off a Western Pennsylvania man named Arnold in a final-round charge, but Trent Karlik was up to the challenge Tuesday at the West Penn Amateur Championship at Penn State Golf Course.
Karlik, 35, outdueled Arnold Cutrell, of Greensburg, in a two-horse race down the stretch to capture his first West Penn Amateur title by four strokes. Karlik shot even par Tuesday and finished with a 7-under 206, the third-lowest 54-hole total in tournament history.
“It feels great,” Karlik said afterward. “I can’t wait to call my mom and dad. They’re my No. 1 fans.”
Karlik is a computer science teacher at his alma mater Montour High School and spent four years on the Robert Morris golf team. He tied for fourth at the West Penn Amateur last year and won low-amateur at the West Penn Open.
While humidity and tricky course conditions left the leader board checkered with high numbers, Karlik and Cutrell managed to put three steady rounds together and stay in the red.
Also breaking par were Ronald DeNunzio of Jeannette (2-under 211) and William Smith of Newville (1-under 210).
Cutrell opened the tournament Monday with a 5-under 66 first round, played on the shorter White Course. When he checked the leader board after his second round of the day, a 72 on the Blue Course, he wasn’t surprised to see his name at the top.
But Karlik finished his round later, just as dark rain clouds began to sweep over the course, and carded a 66, tying Cutrell’s low score of the tournament and taking a three-stroke lead into the final round.
Walking back to the clubhouse, Karlik recalled: “I’m thinking, wow, this course has got some difficulty to it! But then I look and see I’m three shots ahead after 36 holes. I guess I did something right.”
Cutrell did a double-take, too.
“I didn’t think that number was out there, to tell you the truth,” he said. “That was shocking. [Karlik] came in late, too. I thought I’d have the lead going into [Tuesday], and then he put up a 66 on the Blue. That really separated him from the field.”
Cutrell came out aggressively Tuesday morning and made it interesting. Karlik bogeyed the par-3 fourth hole to bring Cutrell within two strokes, but that was the closest he’d get.
Karlik birdied the next three holes and stretched the deficit to five strokes as they turned for home on the back nine.
“Yeah, I had a little turkey there,” Karlik said, grinning, then he gestured toward Cutrell. “But with that guy, he does not back down.”
Karlik took a double bogey on hole No. 10, a 400-yard par-4, bringing his lead back to three strokes, but Cutrell bogeyed the 14th and 15th holes, landing in the water on both, to drown his chances at a comeback.
“It was worth the gamble there,” Cutrell said. “[Karlik] didn’t make many mistakes. He didn’t make many bogeys, and he made his share of birdies. He played rock-solid.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.