Ten Years After Win, Penfield Makes His Return to Saint Louis Country Club
Ryan Penfield will make his return to St. Louis Country Club this week, ten years after his win at the 21st Metropolitan Amateur Championship.
Penfield, who had just graduated from UMSL, caddied at St. Louis Country Club the summer leading up to the amateur in August of 2011. Knowing the course, Penfield stormed out of the gates carding five birdies his first 18 holes. He would shoot a 2-under 69 and grab a share of the lead lead with Jack Eisenbeis. A 1-under 70 in the second round put him in the final group on Saturday with Skip Berkmeyer, who had won the amateur two years prior at Bellerive Country Club.
The final 18 got off to a rough start for Penfield, who had four bogeys his first ten holes. Berkmeyer gained the lead with an eagle before the turn.
“Both Skip and I got off to a slow start and I had a weird section there early,” Penfield said. “I had a 3-putt for bogey on No. 4, was on in two shots on No. 5 and three-putted for par. I couldn’t cash in.”
Berkmeyer bogeyed No. 11, showing signs of the trouble that was to come for the 2009 champion. He would add three more bogeys down the stretch, and Penfield had his championship moment on the on the 15th. A 494-yard par 5 with the pin in the back, Penfield’s second shot landed perfectly on the top ridge for an easy birdie.
Penfield bogeyed No. 17, but a routine par on the 18th green had him one shot better than Ben Crancer in the end, whose final round 4-under 67 shot him up the leaderboard.
The final round was anything but routine for Penfield, who recalls the pairing with Skip Berkmeyer as the key down the stretch, not because of the golf pedigree, but because of the words of encouragement offered.
“The thing I remember most about being paired with Skip is, as we were coming down the last four, he was too far back to win and he had some nice words of encouragement for me,” Penfield said. “It was nice to be paired with someone who wants to win, but someone who also recognizes that when it’s not his day, he thinks, maybe I can give this young guy some words of wisdom.”
After the amateur win, Penfield moved to Madison, Wisconsin for a job with Humana on the commercial insurance side. Now, he lives in Louisville, Kentucky with his fiancé Lisa while working for the same company.
Penfield, who plays out of Big Spring Country Club, says his golf schedule is not as busy as it was ten years ago, that he tries to play in three to four amateur events a summer along with the local USGA qualifiers.
One thing he never misses every summer is the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball qualifier. Penfield and his former college teammate, Matt Rau, have been a team since their UMSL days.
When St. Louis Country Club was announced as the site for the 31st playing of the amateur, Penfield’s college coach, Troy Halterman, reached out and kicked the idea around of him coming back to compete. As a past champion, Penfield is exempt to play in the event each year.
“The conversation started really early, which was perfect,” Penfield said. “I was able to put it on the calendar before any vacations were set and make a reunion out of it.”
The summer has been more of the same golf-wise for Penfield leading up to the amateur. One thing he is looking forward to about playing this year: no expectations.
“I haven’t done anything outside of the norm,” Penfield said. “One thing I like about coming back this year, there are no expectations. I know those guys in the field that are total studs, but potentially that can really make it. Without expectations and knowing the golf course, I’ll enjoy the rounds and see how the scores come out. There won’t be any pressure to win. Usually, you perform your best under those circumstances.”
There won’t be a practice round for Penfield. He’ll drive in Wednesday, meet his uncle for dinner, and hit the course Thursday morning.
Penfield is paired with two past champions in Jimmy Siegfried (2015) and Brian Kennedy (1999) for rounds one and two. The group goes off Thursday morning at 8:54 a.m. off No. 10, and Friday afternoon at 2:09 p.m. off No. 1.
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