U.S. MID-AMATEUR
Notebook: Knollwood Packs a Punch September 8, 2012 | Lake Forest, Ill. By David Shefter, USGA

The label says companion course, but Knollwood Club has proven to be much more than a secondary stroke-play qualifying venue at the 32nd U.S. Mid-Amateur.

In fact, some competitors this week have said the H.S. Colt/C.H. Allison classic design, which hosted the 1956 U.S. Amateur and 1982 U.S. Mid-Amateur, is playing tougher than Conway Farms, the venue that will host all of the matches beginning on Monday. And Conway Farms is no pushover.

"I shot 73 and it felt like an 84," said Tim Hogarth, the 1996 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion and 2010 Mid-Amateur runner-up who played Knollwood on Sunday.

Said Corby Segal, who followed a 1-under 70 at Conway with a 6-over 77 at Knollwood on Sunday: "It’s one of the harder courses I have played in awhile. I hit a lot of 5-woods and 3-woods and 4-irons [into greens]."

Generally, the companion course at the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur, the two USGA events that utilize a second qualifying venue, plays a tad easier. That hasn’t been the case this week, mainly due to thick rough and wet fairways from all the precipitation in the area the past week.

On Saturday, Knollwood’s scoring average of 77.5 was a half-stroke higher than Conway Farms. By the end of the two qualifying rounds, the courses averaged virtually the same: 77.51 for Conway and 77.50 for Knollwood.

Both courses absorbed up to three-tenths of an inch of rain overnight, making the two layouts play longer than the listed scorecard numbers. On the card, Knollwood is 70 yards longer than Conway (7,148 to 7,078).

Only two players – Matt Mattare and John Ehrgott – bettered par on Saturday at Knollwood with 69s, and John Patterson’s 1-under 70 and Edward Richardson's 69 were the lone sub-par scores on Sunday.

"You are getting no roll in the fairways," said Todd White, who shot a 72 at Knollwood after a 70 at Conway. "And you get a couple of mud balls here and there. But the greens are absolutely perfect. The speed is wonderful. They are true. It’s a great test of golf and Conway is also. The USGA did a wonderful job in picking two venues that are incredible."

Caddie Life

When Briny Baird had to shut down his 2012 PGA Tour season in late May due to shoulder injuries, it left Corby Segal, his regular caddie, in a bit of bind.

It gave Segal more time to play golf, but less cash flow.

"This year I’ve done 17 events," said Segal, who qualified for this year’s Mid-Amateur and made match play at 5-over 147. "I worked for Kevin Stadler a couple of weeks. I had Joe Durant for a few, Chris Smith for one. I’m just trying to fill time."

Segal, a reinstated amateur, briefly tried professional golf after graduating from Cal State Northridge in 1995, but gravitated to carrying clubs for a living instead of using them. He’s been with Baird for six years and the duo nearly won the Frys.com Open last fall at CordeValle, site of next year’s USGA Senior Women’s Amateur. Baird lost a playoff to Bryce Molder.

But Baird plans to undergo a pair of shoulder operations in the coming months, meaning he’ll be on the shelf until at least next March.

Segal did find a bag for the upcoming PGA Tour Qualifying School as he’ll carry for Southern Californian Danny Wax. Baird has also tried to help him land jobs.

"Stewart Cink just fired his [caddie], said Segal. "[Baird] sent him a text. He helps me any way he can. He appreciates how good I am."

Segal, 41, admitted he isn’t the best golfer among the PGA Tour caddie ranks. That distinction might go to Damon Green, Zach Johnson’s caddie, who has made the cut at the past two U.S. Senior Opens and won more than 100 mini-tour events in Florida. Lance Ten Broeck, who works for Tim Herron, has also played on the PGA Tour.

Segal, in fact, rarely plays tournament golf. The U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifiers were his only competitive rounds in 2012 before he got to suburban Chicago. The Santa Clarita, Calif., resident often goes to Valencia Country Club or Woodland Hills Country Club to find competition.

Last year, Segal missed the match-play cut at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, his first USGA event since the 1993 U.S. Amateur, where he also failed to qualify for match play.

The third time, however, will be a charm.

"I was just trying to get in," said Segal, who parred his final three holes. "I didn’t want to be at six [over]."

Playing Hooky

Todd White has an understanding boss. The high school history teacher, who is starting his second year at Hilton Head Island (S.C.) High, should be working this week. But his principal, Amanda O’Nan, allowed the 44-year-old White some time off to play in the Mid-Amateur.

"She is wonderful to work with," said White, who easily qualified for match play at even-par 142. "I have sent text messages."

White will also get time off next week when he represents South Carolina at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship at Galloway National Golf Club in New Jersey on Sept. 19-21.

A reinstated amateur, White spent seven years as a pro before going into his current vocation. He did qualify for the 1995 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, shooting 73-79 to miss the cut.

He coached football for 12 years at Dorman High in Spartanburg, South Carolina’s second-largest public high school. One player, Ryan Sims, went on to play at North Carolina and with the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL.

"We had some wonderful academic and athletic programs there," he said. "I think there are four or five [former football players] playing for Clemson right now."

In But Out

George Zahringer, of New York, who was competing in the final year of his 10-year exemption for winning the 2002 Mid-Amateur, withdrew from the championship, despite posting a 4-over total of 145. That score would have qualified Zahringer for match play, but he scheduled his USGA Senior Amateur qualifier for Sept. 11 at Preakness Hills C.C. in Wayne, N.J. So he informed Bill McCarthy, the director of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, of his decision on Sunday after carding a 1-over 72 round at Knollwood.

Zahringer told Ron Balicki of Golfweek that he couldn’t feasibly fit in one of the other sectional qualifiers that were conducted prior to the Mid-Amateur, and he won the Ike Championship at Preakness Hills a couple of years ago. But he wanted to play in what he believed could be his final Mid-Amateur.

Odds and Ends

Scott Congdon, 25, of Foxboro, Mass., recorded his first career hole-in-one at Conway Farms' par-3, 168-yard 11th hole, using a 7-iron. Congdon shot a 76 for a 36-hole total of 151 … The oldest player in the field, 61-year-old Paul Simson, of Raleigh, N.C., and the youngest competitor, 25-year-old Garrett Rank, of Canada, made the match-play draw...Some notable past champions and players failed to qualify for match play (cut came at 8-over 150), including defending champion Randy Lewis (10-over 152). Also failing to advance were 2008 champion Steve Wilson (157), 2004 winner Austin Eaton III (154), 2006 champion Dave Womack (161), 1994 runner-up Thomas Brennan (153), 2010 runner-up Tim Spitz (157) and Robert Leopold (153), who reached the round of 16 at last month’s U.S. Amateur … Eric Peterson, of Nampa, Idaho, who struggled to an 87 at Knollwood Club on Saturday, withdrew prior to his Sunday starting time at Conway Farms due to a back injury … Also withdrawing from the championship was Chris Stutts, of West Palm Beach, Fla., due to allergies. Stutts shot an 81 at Knollwood on Saturday.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.