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Cary’s Kevin O’Connell outduels Charlotte’s Brett Boner for golf’s Mid-Amateur title

Kevin O’Connell of Cary won the U.S. Mid-Amateur on Thursday, beating Charlotte’s Brett Boner 4 and 3 at Charlotte Country Club.
Kevin O’Connell of Cary won the U.S. Mid-Amateur on Thursday, beating Charlotte’s Brett Boner 4 and 3 at Charlotte Country Club. USGA /Chris Keane

Kevin O’Connell is going to think long and hard about his plans. Having quit his job in March to once again pursue his dreams of a career as a professional golfer, O’Connell has a whole new set of options to consider.

O’Connell, 30, won the U.S. Mid-Amateur on Thursday, beating Brett Boner 4 and 3 at Charlotte Country Club. By winning, he will receive an invitation to the Masters next April and will be exempt into the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.

“All the things that come with it will hit me later,” said O’Connell, who lives in Cary and played college golf at North Carolina. And what comes with a U.S. Mid-Amateur championship will be invitations to such prestigious amateur events as the Coleman Invitational in Florida, the George Thomas Invitational in Los Angeles and the Crump Cup in New Jersey – just to name a few.

That is, if he remains an amateur. O’Connell, who graduated from UNC in 2011, leaves next Thursday for France and the first stage of the European Tour Qualifying Tournament. He will compete in the event as an amateur and if he happens to wind up getting his European Tour card, he will have some decisions to make.

If O’Connell fails at Q-School, he said he will not pursue professional golf any further and would likely try law school for a career as a sports agent. After spending two years trying professional golf the first time, he worked for Franklin Street Partners, a Chapel Hill investment firm that represented a number of professional basketball players.

O’Connell found himself with a 5-up lead in Thursday’s championship match when he won five straight holes beginning at the par-4 10th of the morning round of the scheduled 36-hole final. Boner contributed by making two double bogeys and two bogeys to go with O’Connell’s birdie at the par-4 14th. The advantage was too big to overcome.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the way I gave (O’Connell) so many holes during the match, said Boner, the Charlotte City Amateur champion. “I made some boneheaded shots and he played smart. Unfortunately, it’s a great lesson.”

After Wednesday’s semifinal victory over Stewart Hagestad, the 2016 Mid-Am champion, Boner received 256 text messages before turning his phone off Wednesday night.

“This week was a huge success,” said Boner, who made match play at the 2016 U.S. Mid-Am and lost in the first round. “I made the final of a USGA event. And I played some good golf in my hometown.

“It was almost a dream come true.”