ST. LOUIS — By his own admission, Steven Souchek didn't play all that well Friday at Norwood Hills Country Club during the final round of qualifying for the United States Amateur Golf Championship.
But the 21-year-old Columbia native responded when it counted.
Souchek, a graduate of Gibault High School, made birdie putts on the 17th and 18th holes to shoot a 3-over-par 74 on Norwood Hills' West Course, as he tied for third place and earned a berth in the U.S. Amateur Championship.
"I didn't play as well or hit the ball as well as I did yesterday (Thursday), when I shot 68. But I made a couple of clutch putts on 17 and 18 to get in,'' Souchek said. "After 16, when I was two-over par for the day and even for the tournament, I felt like I had to birdie the last two to have a shot. I couldn't imagine anything more than 142 getting out.''
Carr Vernon of Poplar Bluff, Mo. and Chance Holden of Dexter, Mo. shared medalist honors with 36-hole totals of 141, while Souchek and Tanner Bulejski of Kirkwood, Mo. finished a shot back at 142 to earn spots into the U.S. Amateur Championship, which will be played Aug. 12-18 at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass.
The trip east means that Souchek will miss the first week of practice at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where he will be a junior.
"I don't mind,'' Souchek said, laughing. "To be able to play in the biggest amateur golf tournament in the world will be great. I know I've got to work in finishing strong in tournaments, but today should help.
"I just want to go out there, play well and see what happens.''
Former Triad High School standout Blaine Buente finished three shots out of a playoff. Headed to Milliken University in Decatur, Buente shot a 73 on Friday to finish at 145.
Belleville native Phil Caravia shot a 77 to finish with a two-round total of 148. Other local players competing Friday were Mark Gardiner of Mascoutah (154), Devlin Keenoy of Edwardsville (158), Michael Speicher of Mascoutah (160), Wes Hillen of Columbia (161) and Justin Robinson of Belleville (161).
Buente, the 2012 Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year while at Triad, said he didn't play as well Friday, as he did during his first-round 72.
"I didn't hit it as well and I didn't make many putts,'' Buente said. "But this is the first time of trying to qualify. It was a learning experience and I thought I did pretty well.''
Caravia, 35, who played in the 1999 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach in California, was in good position heading into the second round after shooting 71 on Thursday.
But not even playing at his home course at Norwood Hills was enough to make up from a tough day on the links.
"It's disappointing, because I played well yesterday and this (Norwood Hills) is a place where I am a member and I play here so often,'' Caravia said. "I just couldn't make a putt all day.''