Galloway Township, N.J. – Paul Misko, 23, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., and Jon Olson, 32, of Ankeny, Iowa, each shot a 1-under-par 70s, as California and Iowa shared the early first-round lead Wednesday at the 2012 USGA Men’s State Team Championship at the par-71, 6,963-yard Galloway National Golf Club.
Both teams stood at 2-over 144.
Twenty-six teams, including defending champion Kansas, and past champions Pennsylvania, Texas and Tennessee, had afternoon starting times.
The USGA Men’s State Team Championships consists of 54 holes of stroke play, with two of the lowest three individual scores counting as the team total for the round. The team with the lowest aggregate score following the final round on Friday is the champion.
The Men’s State Team Championship is conducted biennially by the United States Golf Association. The men’s event is held in even years and the women’s competition in odd years. Each state is responsible for selecting its teams and the players must reside in that state to be eligible. All 50 teams, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, are in the 2012 field.
Misko, whose teammate John McClure, 53, of Los Angeles, shot 74, played the outward nine in 2-under 33 before adding birdies on holes 11 and 15. He found the water off the tee on 16, leading to double-bogey 7. He followed that with a bogey at the 247-yard, par-3 17th, and finished by getting up and down for par from a greenside bunker at the closing hole.
“I decided to hit driver [on 16] and hit in the water,” said Misko, who lost in the round of 32 at last month’s U.S. Amateur to eventual semifinalist Brandon Hagy and fell in the first round to eventual winner T.J. Vogel at the U.S. Amateur Public Links in July. “I hit a good shot at 17, but it just didn’t work out. I feel like I am playing better when I am playing against better people or harder golf courses. Bigger events, I love them.”
Olson, playing in his first USGA event since the 2001 U.S. Amateur Public Links, made four birdies and three bogeys en route to his 70, while fellow Iowan Gene Elliott, 50, of West Des Moines, carded a 74. Olson, who began his round on the 10th tee, holed a 55-foot chip shot for a birdie on No. 10, one of three birdies over his first six holes.
“I busted driver and 3-iron and was just in front of the green,” said Olson, who won the 2012 Iowa State Amateur with a final-round 64. “[I] hit a great chip and it went in the hole. When you start like that good things are going to happen.”
Olson was also pleased with the way he managed his game on the challenging Tom Fazio design.
“I put it in play off the tee,” he said. “You have to do everything well. Putting is such a huge component of it. There are some flags you cannot go at. You have to have such discipline and patience in these kind of events.”
Louisiana and South Carolina were among four teams tied for third at 3-over-par 145. Matt Nicholas, 33, of Lake Charles, fired an even-par 71 to team with Patrick Christovich’s 74 for Louisiana.
Steven Liebler, 53, of Irmo, also carded a 71 and teammate Todd White, of Spartanburg, a semifinalist at last week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, added a 74 for South Carolina.
New York’s Mike Miller, 20, of Brewster, made three birdies in shooting 72, while teammate Max Buckley had a 73.
“The lead is two over and we’re three,” said Miller, who advanced to the second round of last month’s U.S. Amateur. “If the wind keeps blowing, I don’t see many scores under par [in the afternoon]. Just to put ourselves in contention … and to play with guys like Max and Joe [Saladino]; we’re just out there having fun and enjoying ourselves. So hopefully we can pull it out for New York.”
Brad Nurski, 33, of St. Joseph, paced Missouri with a 72, which was one stroke better than teammates Richard “Skip” Berkmeyer and Nick Wilson. Only one of those 73s counted towards the team total.
The first round started promptly at 7:10 a.m. EDT, despite an overnight storm that produced a quarter of an inch of rain and wind gusts of nearly 60 miles per hour. Galloway National Golf Club, hosting its first USGA championship, came out of the storm virtually unscathed.
Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications. Email him at email@example.com.