Richmond, Texas — Scott Stevens is starting to understand the importance experience plays in winning U.S. Mid-Amateur championships.
After failing to qualify for match play in 2007 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Ore., and 2009 at Kiawah Island (S.C.) Golf Resort, Stevens was pleased to get through on his third attempt this week at Shadow Hawk Golf Club.
On Monday, though, Stevens let a 2-up lead with seven to play slip away and lost, 2 down, to Randal Lewis of Alma, Mich.
“This is the first time I ever made it to match play, so I guess I need to set my goals a little higher ‘cause that was the goal when I got here, to make match play,” joked Stevens as he walked off the 18th green. “So I accomplished the goal, but maybe next year it should be to win a match or two.
“But this has been such a great experience. Every time I play in one of these, I learn so much about myself and my game.”
In 2007, for example, the Encinitas, Calif., resident played his stroke-play qualifying rounds with Tim Jackson, the 1994 and 2001 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and two-time USA Walker Cup Team member.
“I just learned so much from Mr. Jackson on how to work your way around these events,” said Stevens, who posted a 2-under 142 this week and finished six strokes behind medalist Mike McCaffrey. “But each time I learn something more and it makes me want to get back even more.”
Stevens, a district sales manager for Rain Bird, a sprinkler manufacturer, is a young 42 in terms of golf. After playing in high school, Stevens enlisted in the U.S. Navy, where he spent six years and did two tours of duty in Desert Storm.
“Not a whole of room to store your sticks when you’re on an aircraft carrier,” he said.
From there he played collegiately at Chico State, but then did not play all that much when he got into the professional world. Around 2000, Stevens took a job with Club Car and moved to Palm Desert, Calif., affording him more of an opportunity to play.
In 2007, Stevens qualified for the California Amateur, the Southern California Mid-Am and the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
“That was actually the first year I got back into tournament golf, and I qualified for everything I entered,” he said. “After that I was hooked. I started doing things in the offseason to try and get better and learn from those experiences.
“This is as good as I have ever played. I probably had more physical talent when I was younger, but I am a lot more consistent and steadier these days. And mentally I’m a lot better than I’ve ever been.”
Still, there remains a learning curve for Stevens.
While Stevens may be playing his best golf, he admits he may have overdone his preparation, playing eight days in a row, including in an intra-club Ryder Cyp-style event in Lake Tahoe.
“I think I just ran out of gas there near the end [of Monday’s match],” he said. “You just can’t do that on these courses and against the quality of this field. I missed a few putts … if one of them falls maybe we’re playing some more golf.”
That may have to wait until next year, but at least Stevens will be better prepared.
Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA championship websites.