SWANSEA — By his own admission, Kyle Weldon of St. Louis played so well Wednesday that he could have easily shot a 64 or 65 during the second round of qualifying for the United States Amateur Public Links Championship at Clinton Hill Golf Club.
But on a hot, windy afternoon, a second-straight 2-under-par 67 by Weldon was good enough.
Playing near flawless golf for the final 14 holes, Weldon finished the 36-hole event at 4-under-par 134, as he posted a three-stoke victory over Mitchell Rutledge of Creve Ceour and earned a bid into the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship next month.
"I hit the ball better today than I did on Tuesday. Yesterday, I had to grind a bit more to where I had to make several 4-5 foot puts for par. Today, after about the fourth hole, I don't think I hit a shot off target,'' Weldon said. "In fact 67 may have been the highest I could have shot. It could have easily been a 64 or 65 today."
A junior at Kansas State University, Weldon finished with a 134 to beat Rutledge, a junior at Michigan State, for the title. Both players advance to the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, July 15-20 at Laurel Hill Golf Club in Lorton, Va.
Derek Mason of Naperville earned the No. 1 alternate position with a two-day score of 139, while Corey Choate of Wildwood, (Mo.) is the second alternate. Choate finished with a 36-hole score of 142.
John Wirth of Waterloo was the top player from the metro east. He finished with a two-round score of 144.
The trip to a USGA national final is the second in a row for Weldon, who qualified for the United States Amateur Championship a year ago. Weldon qualified for that event at Gateway National Golf Links in Madison.
"I like coming over here (Illinois) to play. These courses suit my game very well,'' Weldon said. "I'm thrilled to have the chance to play in another USGA event. They are so well run and they're just a lot of fun. To be able to compete against the top players in the nation. It doesn't get any better than that.''
The trip to the U.S. Public Links National championship is the second straight for Rutledge, who qualified for match play a year ago, only to lose his first round match.
And if his 3-under 66 on Wednesday is any indication, Rutledge is ready for the challenge.
"I didn't know if 3 under today would be good enough to get me in or not. I pared the last three holes, then I had to come in and wait. That was tough,'' Rutledge said. "Getting to go back to the national finals is great. I learned a lot last year.''
Mark Gardiner of Mascoutah, Dane Gray of Swansea and Tony Gumper of St. Charles, (Mo.) tied for sixth place with 36-hole scores of 145.
Former Gibault High star Steve Souchek, in second place after an opening round 69, struggled to a 77 on Wednesday and was among those tied at 146.
Other local players completing 36 holes were Josh Phillips (148), Justin Robinson (149), Torrey Welsch and Chris Eddy (150), all from Belleville; Blaine Buente of Troy (151), Zach Holland of Maryville (157), Aaron Friederich of Mascoutah, Chris Ehlke of Highland and Paul Keck of O'Fallon (159) and Alex Flaugher of Edwardsville and David Speicher of Mascoutah, both at 161.