Richmond, Texas – Medalist Michael McCaffrey had a much easier time in his second-round match Tuesday morning at the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Shadow Hawk Golf Club.
Needing 20 holes and two days to finally eliminate playoff survivor Chad Bolt in Monday’s first round of match play – he played one hole Tuesday – the 41-year-old reinstated amateur from League City, Texas, decided to play from ahead, jumping out to an early 5-up lead against Chris Congdon of Foxboro, Mass., before cruising to a 3-and-2 victory.
“It was good,” said McCaffrey, who shot 8-under-par 136 in stroke-play qualifying at Shadow Hawk and the companion qualifying course, The Houstonian Golf & Country Club. “It’s easy to play from ahead than from behind.”
Congdon, who rallied from a five-hole deficit with 10 to play in Monday’s first round, didn’t have an answer or any magic against the steady McCaffrey, who birdied holes two and six on the outward nine to build his large lead. Congdon birdied the ninth to close the margin to 4 down, but a McCaffrey birdie at the 216-yard, par-3 11th helped seal the win, although Congdon made things interesting with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15 before the match ended on the par-4 16th with both players making 4s.
“I just tried to play the golf course the way it was set up,” said McCaffrey, the 2011 Texas Golf Association South Region Mid-Amateur champion. “I tried not to do anything stupid and give holes away like I did yesterday. The main thing was try to make him beat me.”
McCaffrey will play 2010 U.S. Mid-Amateur quarterfinalist Anthony Barrera of San Jose, Calif., in a third-round match on Tuesday afternoon. Barrera ousted John Moheyer of Baltimore, Md., 3 and 1.
Also moving into the round of 16 was two-time defending champion Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa. The 33-year-old two-time USA Walker Cup Team member (2009 and 2011) made seven birdies over his final nine holes in eliminating Billy Jackson of The Woodlands, Texas, 5 and 4. Smith now has won a record 14 consecutive Mid-Amateur matches dating to a first-round loss in 2008 at Milwaukee Country Club to Todd Mitchell.
He is bidding to become the first four-time Mid-Amateur champion and the first male to win the same USGA title three years in a row since Tiger Woods won three consecutive U.S. Amateurs from 1994-96. Carol Semple Thompson won three consecutive USGA Senior Women’s Amateur titles from 1999-2002.
“I got in a nice rhythm out there,” said Smith, who won this year’s Sunnehanna Amateur in a playoff. “I started making some really good swings and a couple of putts fell. It felt good.”
Smith faces Nicholas Biesecker of Staunton, Va., in the third round Tuesday afternoon. Biesecker beat Mark Miller of West Covina, Calif., 4 and 3.
Another individual looking to make Mid-Amateur history is 60-year-old Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C. The 2010 USGA Senior Amateur champion defeated Jeff Knox of Augusta, Ga., 4 and 2, keeping his hopes alive of becoming the oldest Mid-Amateur champion. George Zahringer was 49 when he won the 2002 title at The Stanwich Club.
Simson also would be the first player to have won the Senior Amateur and Mid-Amateur titles. He faces Michael Stamberger of Plainfield, N.J., in the round of 16. Stamberger eliminated Dan Horner of Sandy, Utah, 2 and 1.
In a match between players with 52 USGA championships combined between them, Michael McCoy of West Des Moines, Iowa, defeated good friend and longtime rival Robert Gerwin III of Cincinnati, Ohio, 1 up. McCoy, who got into his 14th Mid-Amateur as an alternate from his sectional qualifier, knocked his 95-yard wedge approach shot to the par-5 18th hole to 4 feet and converted the birdie after Gerwin missed a 20-footer from the left fringe.
Neither player had more than a 1-up advantage the entire match.
“We’re real good friends and I am just happy I came out on top today,” said McCoy, who was a semifinalist in the 2008 Mid-Amateur. “We played nicely. I really didn’t hole many putts and he didn’t make a lot of putts either. We were hitting a lot of good shots … just not converting.”
McCoy will next play second-seeded John Engler of Augusta, Ga., a 4-and-2 winner over Rob Couture of Dallas.
The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are scheduled for Wednesday, and the 36-hole championship final will be played Thursday.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.