In 1981, the USGA inaugurated its first new championship for amateurs in four years, the U.S. Mid-Amateur. The Mid-Amateur, for amateur golfers of at least 25 years of age, provides a formal national championship for the post-college amateur, for whom the game is truly an avocation.
Before the arrival of the Mid-Amateur, the post-college player could compete in the Amateur Championship, sometimes successfully, but these older amateurs faced greater odds. While they fit their golf around their work and families, they were most often competing against college golfers, for whom the game is close to a full-time activity.
Only about 40 percent of those who qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship each year are at least 25, although several have been quite successful. For example, Bob Lewis Jr., then 41, reached the Amateur final in 1980, and the semifinals in 1981 and 1986. Jay Sigel won consecutive Amateur titles in 1982 and 1983 (at ages 37 and 38, respectively), then added the Mid-Amateur title in 1983, 1985, and 1987. In 1986, Buddy Alexander, 33, a reinstated amateur, won the U.S. Amateur. And in 1993, 41-year-old John Harris won the Amateur.
In general, however, most post-college amateurs found themselves at a disadvantage competing against college golfers. Thus, the Mid-Amateur Championship was born.
Played at the Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, the first Mid-Amateur drew 1,638 entries in 1981. The field included three former Amateur Champions: Gary Cowan (1966, 1971), Marvin Giles III (1972), and Fred Ridley (1975). Jim Holtgrieve, 33, of Des Peres, Mo., defeated fellow Walker Cupper Bob Lewis Jr., 37, of Warren, Ohio, in the final, 2 up.
In 1983, Jay Sigel, 39, of Berwyn, Pa., became the first golfer in 53 years to win two USGA Championships in the same year when he added the Mid-Amateur Championship to the U.S. Amateur Championship he had won just 32 days earlier.
Sigel became the Mid-Amateur's first two-time winner when he again captured the championship in 1985. Sigel won his third Mid-Amateur in 1987. Combined with his two U.S. Amateur titles (1982, 1983) Sigel had won a total of five USGA championships.
In 1985's first qualifying round, Don Bliss of St. Louis, made holes-in-one on the eighth and tenth holes at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, Texas. Bliss became the only player to score two holes-in-one in one round of a USGA championship.
Jim Stuart of Macon, Ga., became the first player to win two consecutive Mid-Amateur Championships when he won in 1990 and 1991. Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa., also achieved the feat in 2010 at Atlantic Golf Club, and by doing so, joined Sigel as the only three-time champions of the event. Smith claimed his first Mid-Amateur title in 2003.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship has continued to grow in popularity and in 1989 topped 3,000 entries for the first time.
In its short history, the championship's unique age qualification has inspired similar tournaments throughout the country and there are now Mid-Amateur events in nearly every state.
In 2001, the final match, for the first time in the history of the championship, was expanded from 18 to 36 holes.