June 13, 2014

Consistent Souchek makes U.S. Public Links

Once one of the top junior players and now among the premier amateurs in the St. Louis area, Steven Souchek hasn't been spectacular in the early going of the 2014 season.

Just consistent.

And last week, during local qualifying for the U.S. Public Links Championship, that was good enough.

Playing at Aberdeen Golf Course in Eureka, Mo., Souchek shot consecutive even-par rounds of 71 to earn one of two qualifying berths in the national amateur finals.

"Aberdeen is a golf course, where if you hit the ball straight off the tee and your short game is good, you can shoot some good numbers," Souchek said. "I kept it in the fairway and I think my short game is better than most.

"I think being consistent is better than having a few good rounds and a few rounds that are just wild. Being consistent to me means that I'm going to come out every day and post a decent score.''

A Columbia native and Gibault graduate, the 22-year-old Souchek tied for the second berth with Mascoutah's Mark Gardiner.

Souchek won a sudden-death playoff to earn his second trip to a U.S. Golf Association final in two years. He also played in the U.S. Amateur Championship last year.

Kansas State University senior Kyle Weldon, of St. Louis, took medalist honors with a three-under-par 139.

Souchek finished the 36-hole event at 142.

Both Weldon and Souchek will advance to the U.S. Public Links Championship at Sand Creek Station Golf Course in Newton, Kan., on July 14-19.

"I had been close a couple of times before and I think qualifying for the U.S. Amateur last year took a lot of the pressure off,'' Souchek said. "I also think it helped me last week at Aberdeen and maybe gave me a little bit of an edge over some of the other players who were in contention down the stretch.

"Anytime you are able to qualify for a USGA national final, it's an accomplishment and also a tremendous honor. I just hope to go out and play well.''

Souchek played well at Aberdeen.

A birdie on the first hole of the tournament helped him make the nine-hole turn at 2 under.

But the Southern Illinois University Carbondale senior struggled somewhat on the back nine and finished with an opening-round 71.

Souchek trailed Joe Migdal, of St. Louis, by a shot going into the second round.

"I didn't really have a number in mind that I needed to shoot to have a chance of qualifying before the second round. I just wanted to make sure I stayed aggressive,'' Souchek said. "I didn't make many 15- to 20-foot birdie putts, but I made several 6- to 8-foot putts for par, which really helped me.''

Not knowing where he stood in relation to the other top players, Souchek feared away he gave away his chance to qualify on the final hole.

His drive on the par-4 18th went in the water. After his second tee shot, Souchek was in the middle of the fairway, but looking at 220 yards for his fourth shot.

"I had 220 (yards) to the hole and I hit my hybrid (wood) within three feet and made my putt for bogey," Souchek said. "It was a great shot and a terrific bogey.

"The playoff hole was No. 18 and yes, I thought about what I had just done when my drive went into the water on the same hole. I just concentrated on taking the water out of play and hitting the fairway.''

In the playoff, after both players hit their drives into the fairway, Gardiner's second shot went in the water and he settled for bogey.

When Souchek made a par, he was in the U.S. Public Links final.

Souchek will return to SIU-Carbondale for his senior year in August. He is hoping to be a graduate assistant in 2015 or may give professional golf a try.

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