Richmond, Texas — Chad Bolt picked a fine time to hit the best iron shot of his week.
On the fourth playoff hole to determine the final spot in the 31st U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship’s match play bracket, Bolt stuck his approach from 156 yards on the 444-yard, par-4 ninth hole at The Houstonian Golf & Country Club to set up an 8-foot birdie putt.
“I haven’t been hitting the ball well at all this week,” said Bolt, of Bellafontaine, Ohio.
Still, Bolt managed to shoot a 5-over 149 to get into a 20-man playoff for the final three spots in match play at Shadow Hawk Golf Club. While none have been the magnitude of Monday’s playoff, Bolt noted that he has never lost one.
“Somehow, though, I’m always the last one in,” joked Bolt, who played nine holes in the morning’s resumption of stroke play after Sunday’s weather delays and eventual suspension due to darkness. Bolt played the additional four playoff holes before being whisked off to his opening-round match against medalist Mike McCaffrey of League City, Texas.
“It doesn’t matter [who I play],” Bolt said. “It’s match play and anything can happen.”
Three players were eliminated on the first playoff hole — the 400-yard, par-4 10th hole — after failing to make par. The playoff, which took place on the companion stroke-play qualifying course, was whittled to 12 after five more players failed to make par at the 464-yard, par-4 18th hole.
Not until Tony Behrstock, of Los Angeles, Calif., made a 4-foot putt on the 440-yard, par-4 first hole, did the playoff have its first birdie and first match-play qualifier.
“I think I had more nerves worrying about my travel plans, because I was all set to leave today,” joked Behrstock, who finally made match play in four USGA championship appearances. “But when I was standing over that 4-footer I was about to pass out. Man, it’s nerve-wracking.”
Still Behrstock had to wait for the final foursome to play out before he could celebrate for about an hour before facing Kevin Pomarleau, of East Wenatchee, Wash., in his first-round match.
In that final foursome, Scott Hovis of Jefferson City, Mo., made a curving 12-foot putt to also advance to match play.
For Hovis, making the birdie was an ounce of redemption after last year’s Mid-Amateur at Atlantic Golf Club. In last year’s stroke-play qualifying, the executive director of the Missouri Golf Association needed to two-putt to continue a 12-for-5 playoff. He three-putted.
What did he learn from that experience?
“Stay patient,” said Hovis, who only had a 23-minute break before facing second-seeded John Engler, of Augusta, Ga.
Easier said, especially given Bolt, Hovis and Behrstock all are making their first U.S. Mid-Amateur match play appearances.
And that is all that mattered.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship websites.