Beating Charlie Stevens in a round of golf is not a light accomplishment. He has had one of the most distinguished careers in Wichita, winning the 2010 Kansas Amateur and the Junior Amateur in 1986.
But three years ago, on Stevens’ 40th birthday, he remembers being defeated by a 12-year-old boy. It was his son, and Charlie Stevens still can vividly recount the 15-footer Sam rolled in on the final hole for the winning round of 70.
Not many tournaments have been able to match the pressure Sam Stevens, now a sophomore at Kapaun Mount Carmel, felt when he lined up for that putt. But today’s Class 5A Regional at the Winfield Country Club ranks as one.
“There was some pride on the line there,” Sam said. “He had always beaten me, so coming down the stretch there was some serious pressure there. At the family dinner table, it’s definitely something that was talked about.”
Charlie Stevens recognized the significance of the moment. He glowed with pride, realizing his Sam was following down the same path as his father and his grandfather, Johnny, who also won two Kansas Amateurs.
This season Sam has won six of his eight tournaments, including last week’s City League championship where he shot a 1-over 71 to win at Braeburn. He is currently carding a 71.8 average.
“I never wanted to let him to beat me, but I was glad to see it,” Charlie said. “I wasn’t upset at all that first time. I knew he could be a pretty good player then.”
Once Sam arrived at Kapaun, he made the varsity squad with a senior-laden roster as a freshman. He’s discovered that having a walking vault of knowledge in his father has paid dividends once high school competition began.
“I feel pretty fortunate to have a dad that knows so much about the game,” Sam said. “It gives me confidence because I never have to question what he’s telling me. If he tells me to hit a certain shot under pressure, it’s because he knows that kind of shot works. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s correct.”
Similarities between the father and son stop once you break down their swings and games. Charlie is long off the tee, something Sam is still developing. The two conclude they play different shots, but have the same thought process on the course.
Sam Stevens admits the nerves will be there today when he tees off. But he knows he won’t be competing against any golfer the caliber of his father, and that brings him comfort.
“It’s not like a tournament when I play him, but there’s definitely some pressure I put on myself,” Stevens said. “I hope I’m in contention to win. I’m going to try to treat it like just another round, but if it’s close coming down the stretch then there will definitely be some nerves. I guess I’ll just have to imagine like I’m playing with my dad.”