HUTCHINSON — Charlie Stevens turned to hug the closest person near him after winning the 100th Kansas Amateur Golf Tournament Sunday at Prairie Dunes. That person just so happened to be his father, John Stevens, who accomplished the same feat 50 years ago.
This go-round John was there for moral support as well as caddy duties, something that Charlie said was invaluable in his first amateur championship victory.
"It was exciting... I think my dad there on the bags helped a lot," Charlie said. "He's pretty calm. My grandma in the crowd made me more nervous, so they canceled each other out."
Charlie beat Kansas graduate Andrew Storm in 33 holes (4 and 3) in match play with his father by his side the whole time. Charlie had shown the ability to drive the ball deep and with accuracy for the whole tournament, but the key to his win Sunday was his short play — something John jokily said he didn't get from him.
"It was great. I enjoyed it. I would have rather been playing, but I'm glad he won and I was able to caddy for him," John said. "I was better at driving the ball. He's good at that and the short game."
Charlie took a lead early on Storm and didn't let off. He won the first two holes and maintained it for most of the morning. He went up three after Storm bogeyed No. 16 and maintained his caliber of play.
"Unfortunately I just played awful this morning," Storm said. "I really went through a mental funk in the middle of the back nine. I hit some poor golf shots and got down and never really recovered. I played better in the second round of 18 but I couldn't catch Charlie. He was hard to catch. He played really solid."
Charlie said Saturday that he knew he would have to be at his best to win the championship.
"I just kept trying to grind it out and I never game him any holes," Charlie said. "He missed a couple little putts that he could have capitalized on and that hurt him. Once I got the lead I never gave it back."
If Charlie had been a tad bit off of his game Storm might have had a chance. In the second round Charlie had a knack for getting his ball stuck in sand traps as he approached the green, but he also had a knack for getting out of them.
He hit shots to save par on holes 10 and 14 that if missed could have easily spelled a comeback for Storm.
"He has a lot of talent, and once you get some confidence in your short game on a certain day you can just about up and down it from anywhere," John said. "That's what he did."
Charlie couldn't stop smiling after Storm missed a crucial putt for birdie on 15 that officially sealed the deal in crowning the 40-year-old Wichita Country Club golfer as the Kansas amateur match play champion. But he joked that the stress of the tournament can be bitter-sweet at time. Stevens said after the receiving his trophy that he was beat.
"It was tough. It was unbelievable. I don't know if I want to do it again," Charlie said. It's just that you can't let up at all. Everybody is so good that they take advantage and every shot you have to concentrate on."
Kansas Amateur Match Play Championship
at Prairie Dunes Country Club, Hutchinson
Charlie Stevens, Wichita, Kan. def. Bryan Norton, Mission Hills, Kan. 3 and 2 Andrew Storm, Omaha, Neb. def. Thomas Birdsey, Trophy Club, Texas 5 and 3
Charlie Stevens, Wichita, Kan. def. Andrew Storm, Omaha, Neb. 4 and 3