BLOOMINGTON — Joe Weiler keeps checking them off his list, like he’s filling out a scorecard.
The Bloomington South grad made the U.S. Junior Amateur golf tournament during his high school playing days.
Now, the Purdue senior standout has made the adult version as well, storming to a five-shot win in a U.S. Amateur qualifier at Chesterton’s Sand Creek Country Club on Sunday. Weiler opened with a seven-under 65 to share the lead and pulled away with a second-round 69 in the 36-holes-in-one-day format.
The U.S. Amateur will take place Aug. 9-15 at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.
“It’s pretty sweet,” Weiler said. “I’ve tried to qualify ever since I made the Junior Am as well and it’s a litte bit tougher to do.
“This is one of the amateur tournaments I haven’t had a chance to play in. I’ve been close, but obviously, I want to play in it before it’s too late. I’m stoked. And to be at Oakmont, it’s one of the best in the world.”
Also making the U.S. Amateur from a qualifier at Dayton, Ohio’s Moraine Country Club last week were Indiana University’s Drew Salyers and Clay Merchant, who finished 1-2.
Weiler led the field with 13 birdies and had four on his first six holes to open with a 32 on the back nine, and carded four more birdies to finish up with a 33.
He was tied for the lead with Castle grad Adam Bratton, now a golfer at Georgia Tech. But Weiler soon separated himself from the field on Day 2, in the last group to tee off on No. 1.
“I’ve played here before,” said Weiler, noting the Northern Am and a previous US Am qualifier. “I played a practice round and just got used to the course. I figured out where to miss it.
“I just played smart golf. I didn’t have my best golf, I just played it smart, which is just part of being a good player. Even if you don’t have it all, you figure out how to get it around.”
He was in the last group off No. 1 to start the second round. Three birdies and a couple bogeys to start left him at one-under on the front, and he stayed bogey free on the back to finish three-under on the day.
“I was super excited,” Weiler said. “I knew coming down the stretch I was 10 under, so I figured that had to be pretty good.
“I didn’t even look at the leaderboard until I was on the 18th fairway. My strategy wasn’t going to change anyway.”
Also making it out were 2020 state high school champ Clay Stirsman from Carmel (139), who is competing at Wake Forest and Bratton, who grabbed third at 140 despite falling to a 75 on Day 2. He won a three-way playoff for the last spot, that left Weiler’s Purdue teammate Cole Bradley as one of two alternates after also shooting a 140.
Taking fifth was IU’s Mitch Davis (71-70—141), while Noah Gillard tied for 22nd (74-73—147) and Ethan Shepherd tied for 31st (77-73—150). South and Lincoln Trail grad Seth Kestranek, who is headed to Marion this fall, tied for 55th (81-77—158).
Weiler’s had a strong year that started with a ‘freebie’ senior season with the Boilermakers that ended with an individual appearance at the NCAA regionals. This summer, he tied for third at the 59th Northeast Amateur in Rhode Island and tied for fourth at the long running Indiana State Am for his fourth straight top-five finish in that event.And each time he’s in contention, it gets a little easier to eliminate the nerves and just play. And by now, he knows he belongs with the best in the country, so the pressure that comes with contending is now something he looks forward to feeling.
His run continues this week. He has 36 holes Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in the Northern Amateur on the same Sand Creek course. Then he’ll have the 119th annual Western Amateur at the Glen View Club in suburban Chicago on July 26-30 before heading to Pennsylvania.
“I think what’s most exciting is that I don’t think my game is any better, I’ve just gotten more comfortable,” said Weiler, who will return with Bradley for one last run at Purdue. “I just own it. That’s probably the biggest difference. My game is pretty good. It’s definitely better than in year’s past. But I think it’s just some confidence, knowing I’m one of the better players.
“And the confidence to know that even when I’m playing bad, I know how to manage the game and finish in the top. I don’t need to be geeked out or intimidated. I’ve played with guys who have won the US Am before. My game is in a good spot and it’ll continue to get better.”