Santa Rosa, Calif. – As a warm-weather locale with year-round golf and a deep talent pool of outstanding amateurs, one would expect Florida to be a constant contender at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship.
And in some years, Florida has acquitted itself nicely, finishing second in the inaugural competition in 1995, tying for fourth in 1999 and getting a share of ninth in 1997.
But it never has claimed the trophy. That might change in 2010 at Mayacama Golf Club, where Florida garnered the early 36-hole clubhouse lead on Wednesday at 2-over 286 after posting a 3-over 145.
Doug Snoap, 51, of Apopka, Fla., matched the morning’s best round with a 1-under 70 over the 6,726-yard Jack Nicklaus design, while 39-year-old Jon Veneziano of Eustis, coming off a brilliant 67 on Tuesday, added a 4-over 75. Don Bell of Port Orange had a non-scoring 80 in the three-count-two format.
Florida held a one-stroke edge over Alabama and defending champion Pennsylvania, which shot 143 behind an even-par 71 from Sean Knapp and a 72 by two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith.
Alabama received a 72 and 74 from Glenn Northcutt and Steve Hudson, respectively. Robert Nelson, who threatened the championship and course scoring record on Tuesday before settling for a 68, struggled to a non-scoring 83.
Washington and Kansas, the 18-hole leaders at 2-under 140, had afternoon starting times, as did Georgia, which stood at even-par 142 after day one of the 54-hole biennial competition.
Play was suspended for 45 minutes early Wednesday for fog. It was the second consecutive day that fog forced a brief suspension. Because of Tuesday’s conditions, the first round did not finish until Wednesday morning.
“We have a mature team,” said Florida captain Jack Pultorak, who has been the director of Rules and Competitions for the Florida State Golf Association the past 12 years. “All these guys have played golf professionally before … and are reinstated amateurs. We just need somebody to break par each day and somebody else to hang around.”
That formula has worked through 36 holes. On Tuesday, it was Veneziano, a semifinalist at the 1988 U.S. Junior Amateur who is competing in his 13th USGA championship, shooting a 67. On Wednesday, Snoap stepped up with a three-birdie, two-bogey effort. His 70 was only matched by California’s Harry Rudolph III and Todd Mitchell of Illinois.
“I just didn’t make any mistakes,” said Snoap, adding that a key to the round was rebounding from a bogey at the par-3 fifth with a 52-degree wedge approach to 3 feet at the par-4 sixth for a birdie. “It was nothing spectacular today; just solid.
“Jon was our horse yesterday and today it was my turn. And tomorrow it will be Don’s turn. We really would love to win, especially for Jack. We haven’t been showing well lately [at the Men’s State Team Championship] and they are doing so much for us in the state. We need to reward them.”
Snoap has had a lot more time to play golf this year since being laid off in December. The computer programmer has used the free time to compete more and the results are showing up. He was third in the Florida State Amateur, fifth in the Florida Mid-Senior and qualified for the Florida Open. He also was co-medalist at his U.S. Senior Open sectional qualifier with five other players and wound up as an alternate. He was an alternate for the U.S. Amateur Public Links and recently qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur that begins Sept. 25 at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y.
“It’s helped to play this much,” said Snoap. “You can correct your mistakes quicker. You have a better feel with your short game. You definitely notice the difference.”
Pennsylvania is looking to join Texas and Minnesota as multiple winners of the Men’s State Team Championship. Once again on Wednesday, it was the Pittsburgh duo of Knapp and Smith leading the way. The 84 by Artie Fink was discarded.
“Said Knapp of the team’s chances of a comeback win, “We need to shoot like four under tomorrow. A lot will depend on how the other teams do this afternoon.”
David Shefter is a USGA communications staff writer. E-mail him with questions or comments at email@example.com.