Connor Schmidt defined the mistake as a blessing in disguise.
In 2018, he missed the deadline to register for the U.S. Amateur qualifier.
“While it was my fault, I was devastated,” said the Venetia native, who a year prior had earned a berth in the prestigious amateur golf event. “It was tough not to have that opportunity, but everything happens for a reason. Maybe it helped me. It certainly motivated me.”
Knowing there was only one open spot for this year’s event, Schmidt carded back-to-back, 64 scores to finish first in the qualifier held July 8 at Edgewood Country Club in Charleston, W.Va.
The triumph came on the heels of his victory in the West Penn Amateur at the venerable Oakmont Country Club.
“I have been playing a lot of golf the last few weeks and my game was trending in the right direction,” he said. “I’ve been in good form, feeling great out there and playing my game.”
During the qualifier, Schmidt played his best 36 holes. He finished 14-under par with a 128 total score to grab a spot in the 119th U.S. Amateur Championships scheduled Aug. 12-18 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in North Carolina.
According to Schmidt, his game is “more mental than physical” and just playing smart. In addition to knowing tendencies, he has learned when to attack the pins.
“I feel like I have a lot more experience,” he said. “I’m more comfortable out there and I stick to the game plan. When that happens, more often than not, good things are going to happen.”
When he hits the Pinehurst links, Schmidt hopes better things happen than what occurred during his last foray in 2017 at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
Schmidt hopes to make the cut.
After two days of stroke play, the top 64 golfers move on to match play.
“My goals are a little different than two years ago because I have played in other events and because of my college experience,” said Schmidt, who has one year of eligibility remaining at Drexel University.
“Obviously, I wanted to play better the first time I competed, but it was my first big national. I think I learned a lot and took the positive away with me. So, I’m glad to get another crack at it and see what happens because I think anything can happen if I play well and anyone has a chance to win it.”
Last year, Viktor Hovland, a standout at Oklahoma State University, became the first Norwegian golfer to claim a USGA title when he defeated Devon Bling, of Ridgecrest, Calif., 6 and 5, in the 36-hole championship match at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Despite limited playing time this summer because he is an intern working for Armada Supply Chain Solutions in Oakmont, Schmidt has been doing his share of winning and preparation for the U.S. Amateur.
Schmidt is coming off capturing the West Penn Amateur. He carded a four-over par 217 to win the event, played at Oakmont Country Club. Last year, Schmidt lost a five-hole playoff on the course and finished runner-up in the West Penn Open.
Winning the West Penn Amateur, Schmidt said was a “big” accomplishment.
“It was pretty awesome and it felt good to win at Oakmont,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite courses that I ever played. It’s never easy, but I’ve been able to figure it out. You have to learn that pars are good scores and I think that is why I succeeded. I try to think my way around the golf course. Play smart and be patient.”
While he patiently awaits the U.S. Amateur, Schmidt will be playing in two more tournaments.
On Aug. 4, he will compete in the Canadian Men’s Amateur. The invitation-only event not only features Canada’s best, but players like Hovland, who won the event last year.
Schmidt will also seek to defend his title at the Pennsylvania Amateur Championship to be held July 29-31. The 54-hold stroke play event will be played at the famed Aronimink Golf Club in Newton Square. The course has played host to several USGA and PGA Championships as well as the BMW Championship in 2018.
Schmidt’s former high school coach David Kuhn said he would not be surprised if his former player continues his upward trend.
“I have been playing with Connor for a long time and I always knew he had the potential to be great,” Kuhn said. “He’s showing that right now.”
Before he entertains thoughts of taking his golf game to the next level, Schmidt has two years of study and one season remaining at Drexel University.
Schmidt had the lowest stroke average in the Colonial Athletic Association of 71.4. A second team All-CAA pick, Schmidt tied the Drexel record by shooting a 63 at White Manor Country Club during the Wildcat Invitational. He was named to the CAA all-tournament team and is a three-time CAA Player of the Week. Schmidt won two tournaments as a junior and also picked up the Pennsylvania Dressler Memorial title this spring.
“I’m looking forward to my senior season,” he said. “After that, I’m going to try to turn pro as quickly as I can do that. I’d like to give that a shot.”
Schmidt will have a band of supporters from his parents, Aimee and Ralph, to his coaches, including Matt Kluck from Mt. Lebanon.
“I have a lot of people in my corner, from mentors to coaches. People I can go to,” said Schmidt, who has taken very few golf lessons in his career for a reason. “If you rely too much on your instructors, then you are not able to fix yourself when you are out there on the course. I try to keep it simple.”
With the way he is currently playing, Schmidt’s simplicity remains a staple.
“I don’t think I would change much. Just keep getting better,” he said. “Keep learning, working hard and gaining experience and play a ton of golf.”