Charlie Blanchard eliminated stroke-play medalist and fellow Rhode Islander Brad Valois, 2 up, during Tuesday morning’s second round of match play at the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, being conducted at the par-71, 7,078-yard Conway Farms Golf Club.
The 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, for players ages 25 and older, consists of 36 holes of stroke play. The low 64 scorers advanced to match play, which features six rounds, including a 36-hole final scheduled for Thursday beginning at 7 a.m. (CDT).
The U.S. Mid-Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
With 20-plus-mph winds wreaking havoc on the players, Blanchard and Valois struggled on the challenging Tom Fazio design. Neither player held more than a one-hole lead until Blanchard’s 3-foot birdie putt was conceded on the 18th hole.
"We felt we were like on the coast playing Newport [Country Club] or one of those courses [in Rhode Island]," said Blanchard, 47, the head golf coach at Bryant University. "It was definitely a two-club wind."
The two swapped possession of the lead three times over the first nine holes. After Valois squared the match with a par at the par-5 14th hole, Blanchard converted a 30-foot birdie putt from the fringe at the par-4 15th take the lead for good.
"Toward the last few holes, we both started hitting it a lot better than we were on the front," said Valois, 25. "[Blanchard’s] big putt on 15 kind of sealed the deal."
"I made some phenomenal up and downs from places you could drop a bucket of balls and not get up and down again," said Blanchard. "I was fortunate to hit some great shots out of that thick fescue there."
Blanchard and Valois live just 15 miles apart in North Providence and Warwick, respectively, and will represent their home state at next week’s USGA Men’s State Team Championship. The two left-handers have played more than 100 rounds together, with Valois taking both competitive matches prior to today.
"Unfortunately, I had to play him today," said Blanchard. "He’s been playing great.
"I can’t beat him in Rhode Island, but I can beat him out of Rhode Island."
Blanchard will next face Dennis Bull, 30, of Norwalk, Iowa, who advanced with a 3-and-1 victory over Trevor Sauntry, of Houston.
Canadian Garrett Rank, who turned 25 just three days prior to the start of the championship, cruised to a 8-and-6 victory over Scott Harvey, of Greensboro, N.C. The margin of victory is tied for the fourth largest in championship history.
"I just had it this morning," said Rank, a member of Golf Canada’s national team. "It's just one of those days."
Rank certainly did have it on Tuesday morning, playing to the equivalent of eight under par, with the usual match-play concessions, over the 12 holes.
Harvey had a golden opportunity to cut into his deficit when his approach to the par-4 seventh came up one foot short of the hole. Rank conceded the short birdie putt and promptly chipped in for eagle from just off the back of the green, putting a stop to Harvey’s momentum.
"That was a huge boost because he hit a good shot in there," said Rank, a 2012 graduate of the University of Waterloo in Ontario. "To come up with the win on the hole was big."
The morning round brought mixed results for the three remaining past Mid-Amateur champions. Tim Jackson (1994, 2011) and Nathan Smith (2003, 2009-10) both advanced, while 2005 champion Kevin Marsh was eliminated.
Smith’s third-round opponent will be close friend Sean Knapp, both members of the Pennsylvania team that won the 2009 Men’s State Team. Knapp, 50, of Oakmont, Pa., advanced with a 1-up victory over Sammy Schmitz.
The two professional caddies both moved on to Tuesday afternoon’s round of 16. Corby Segal, who carries the bag for PGA Tour player Briny Baird, registered a 1-up win over Walter Todd, of Laurens, S.C. Casey Boyns, who loops at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, outlasted fellow Californian Brian Tennyson in 20 holes.
At 56, Boyns is the oldest player remaining in the field.
Christina Lance is a coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at email@example.com.