Notebook: Engler Runs Out Of Steam

Second seed won't use ankle ailment as excuse for semifinal defeat

John Engler (right) ran out of steam in the semifinals against Kenny Cook on Wednesday. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
By Stuart Hall
September 21, 2011

Richmond, Texas — John Engler has a built-in excuse, a trump card of sorts, should he ever choose to use it. But that is not Engler’s style.  

In March 2003, the 32-year-old Engler was involved in a tragic car accident that nearly severed his right foot from his leg and killed the two occupants in the other vehicle. As a result, he is somewhat limited to the number of rounds he can play over a short span.

An event such as this week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, which presents the possibility of playing nine rounds and 144 holes over six days, can be a strenuous test on his ankle joint.

The Augusta, Ga., native and former three-time Clemson All-American who played briefly on the Nationwide Tour, did his best to minimize the physical exertion. He needed just 62 holes to reach Wednesday’s semifinal.

Once there, though, Engler lost 6 and 5 to Kenny Cook, of Noblesville, Ind.

Afterward, Engler offered a blunt assessment of his loss.

“I just played terrible,” he said. “The worst round I have had in months, but that’s part of golf. It’s the worst I’ve played in four months.”

As for the ankle?

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you the reason I lost is because of my ankle,” said Engler, who lost in last year’s Mid-Amateur second round to eventual champion Nathan Smith. “Everybody’s body is fatigued after 36 holes, so for me to tell you it was the reason is a complete lie.”

Engler will need a few days to process this loss.

“I came in here playing well and you want to be prepared for the heat of the battle, but I just didn’t have it this afternoon,” he said. “I’m sure I will be able to find a positive, but it’s going to take me a while.”

No Three-Peat For Smith 

On Monday, two-time reigning champion Nathan Smith admitted that winning a record third consecutive U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship was becoming tougher. He was right.

Smith’s record run ended with a 19-hole loss to 54-year-old Randal Lewis in the semifinals on Wednesday afternoon.

“I knew I needed to do something special to beat him,” said Lewis, who lost to John “Spider” Miller in the 1996 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Hartford Golf Club in West Hartford, Conn. “He’s just so good.”

Smith’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship résumé is full of records.

  • In 2003, he became the championship’s youngest winner, age 25, by four years.
  • His 2010 title tied him with Jay Sigel for most U.S. Mid-Amateur titles (three).
  • With four match play wins to start this year’s championship, Smith set the record for successive match play wins (16, dating back to 2009).

 But there are a few other numbers that put Smith’s indelible stamp of dominance on this championship.  

  • In seven Mid-Am appearances, he is 26-4.
  • During his Mid-Amateur career he has played 519 holes and won 337 (64.9 percent) and been all square in another 117, meaning he has trailed in just 22.8 percent of his holes played. During his three championship years he led or was all squared on 85.9 percent of the holes. 
  • Of the 30 matches Smith has played, his loss to Lewis was the first in which he never led a single hole.
  • Each of Smith’s four career Mid-Amateur losses have been at the 18th hole or later. His overall record in matches that have gone that far is 8-4.
  • In his three championship finals, he led 68 of the 69 holes played. In 2003, when Bryan Norton retired on the ninth hole with a calf injury, Smith was already 4 up.

Now what?

“I guess I will just have to start another streak next year,” Smith said.

Supporting Cast 

Kenny Cook will have at least one spectator pulling for him on Thursday – friend Josh Sroufe, who is turning out to be quite the prophet.

After attending the Indianapolis Colts’ 27-19 home loss to Cleveland on Sunday, Sroufe sent a text message to Cook.

“He said he was thinking about coming,” Cook said. “I said ‘Josh, I’ve got to go finish up on Monday. You might come down here for nothing.’ He said ‘No big deal, I’m a believer.’”

Sroufe got up Tuesday morning at 2:30 a.m. and drove from Anderson, Ind., to Indianapolis, caught a flight into Dallas, drove the four hours to the Houston suburb of Richmond and arrived at Shadow Hawk just as Cook was dispatching Sean Knapp, 2 up, in the second round.

In Sroufe’s presence, Cook continues to win and will make his first U.S. Mid-Amateur final appearance against Randal Lewis.

Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA championship websites. 


Follow the USGA
Become a Facebook Fan of the USGAFollow us on Twitter @USGA
Get The Rules of Golf App For Your iPhone Or Android Today
World Amateur Golf Ranking
WAGR Counting Event
Partner Links
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image
AmEx image

The USGA and Chevron have committed to using the game of golf to encourage students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. This commitment has led to the creation of extensive golf-focused STEM teaching tools, and has resulted in charitable contributions to support golf-related programs through Eagles for Education™

At U.S. Open Championships the Chevron STEM ZONE™ is an interactive experience highlighting the science and math behind the game of golf through a variety of hands-on exhibits and experiments.

The partnership has also produced educational materials such as the Science of Golf video series and a nationally-distributed newspaper insert which are provided to teachers as tools to enhance existing curriculum in schools. These lessons teach the science behind the USGA’s equipment testing, handicapping, and agronomy efforts.

For more interactive experiences featuring golf-focused STEM lessons, visit the partnership homepage.

Chevron image

Rolex has been a longtime supporter of the USGA and salutes the sportsmanship and great traditions unique to the game. This support includes the Rules of Golf where Rolex has partnered with the USGA to ensure golfers understand and appreciate the game.

As the official timekeeper of the USGA and its championships, they also provide clocks throughout host sites for spectator convenience.

For more information on Rolex and their celebration of the game, visit the Rolex and Golf homepage.

Rolex image

IBM has partnered with the USGA to bring the same technology, expertise, and innovation it provides to businesses all over the world to the USGA and golf's national championship.

IBM provides the information technology to develop and host the U.S. Open’s official website,, as well as the mobile apps and scoring systems for the three U.S. Open championships. These real-time technology solutions provide an enhanced experience for fans following the championship onsite and online.

For more information on IBM and the technology that powers the U.S. Open and businesses worldwide, visit

AmEx image

Lexus is committed to partnering with the USGA to deliver a best-in-class experience for the world’s best golfers by providing a fleet of courtesy luxury vehicles for all USGA Championships.

At each U.S. Open, Women’s Open and Senior Open, Lexus provides spectators with access to unique experiences ranging from the opportunity to have a picture taken with both the U.S. Open and U.S. Women’s Open trophies to autograph signings with legendary Lexus Golf Ambassadors in the Lexus Performance Drive Pavilion.

For more information on Lexus, visit

AmEx image
American Express

Together, American Express and the USGA have been providing world-class service to golf fans since 2006. By creating interactive U.S. Open experiences both onsite and online, American Express enhances the USGA’s effort to make the game more accessible and enjoyable for fans.

For more information on American Express visit

AmEx image