Few would have noticed if Bradley Bastion had bowed out of the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur after stroke-play qualifying this past weekend.
Bastion, 28, of Clinton Township, Mich., was not considered among the pre-championship favorites, as this was only his second USGA championship and first Mid-Amateur.
"A lot of people didn’t expect to see me here in the first place," said Bastion after his disappointing 7-and-6 quarterfinal loss to veteran Michael McCoy Wednesday morning at the Country Club of Birmingham. "My mindset all week was if I get knocked out, so be it. After I made it through [the Round of 32] yesterday morning, I felt like I was playing with house money."
Up until a few years ago, Bastion wasn’t playing much golf at all. He played two seasons in high school, but not his senior year. He attended Western Michigan, but the school didn’t have a golf team and he didn’t seek out other playing opportunities..
Bastion spent only one year at Western Michigan before taking 6½ years off from academia to work odd construction jobs. In 2011, he realized this wasn’t the right career path, so he enrolled at Oakland (Mich.) University and earned his marketing degree in two years.
"I burned through [school] as quickly as I could," he said. "I just wanted to finish."
By then, he was playing golf regularly and even qualified for the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C.
"I didn’t even sniff match play," he said.
Now that he’s made another career change and works as an insurance broker specializing in life insurance, retirement investments and annuities, Bastion has more time for golf.
And this summer, his game has taken off. In June, he earned a spot in U.S. Open sectional qualifying and was assigned to the qualifier in Bradenton, Fla., where he opened with a 72 at the Ritz-Carlton Members Golf Club. In the afternoon round, with no pressure or expectations, Bastion carded a career-best 66, which put him in a playoff for the second alternate position, which he won.
Coming that close to a spot in the U.S. Open at Merion built his confidence, and even though he didn’t win any statewide events in Michigan, he was contending, reaching the semifinals of the 2013 Michigan Amateur.
He was the medalist at his Mid-Amateur sectional at Dearborn (Mich.) Country Club, shooting a 68.
But he was in jeopardy of missing the cut here in Birmingham on Sunday after opening with a 6-over 77 on the West Course. Playing the shorter East Course on Sunday, Bastion battled a steady rain to card a 1-under 69 to secure his spot in the match-play draw. A narrow 1-up win on Monday over Ryan Sloane put him in the Round of 32, where he bounced Davis Boland, 4 and 2. Bastion followed it up with another gritty 1-up win over Dan Sullivan.
Then Bastion ran into McCoy, a 50-year-old whose career USGA championship appearances (38) is significantly more than Bastion’s age. Bastion indicated he wasn’t nervous, but he had struggled on the outward nine of the West Course. And McCoy jumped on Bastion’s early mistakes to take a 6-up lead at the turn. Bastion shot the equivalent of six over par for the 12 holes, with the usual concessions for match play.
"I had played the front nine kind of sloppy the past couple of days and it finally caught up with me," said Bastion. "He played much, much better than I did. I am obviously very disappointed in myself, but, hey, he deserves it. He played a lot better."
Bastion, who plays out of The Orchards Golf Club in Washington, Mich., site of Ryan Moore’s 2002 U.S. Amateur Public Links victory, said he’ll bottle the experience of this week. One area he believes needs more consistency is his long game. Missing fairways in a USGA event is generally a recipe for an early departure.
"It’s hard to make par or birdie from the rough," he said. "Mike was very accurate. He doesn’t miss very often. There are a couple of things I need to tweak."
With his run to the quarterfinals, Bastion has an exemption into the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa. He’d also like to qualify for the final U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, to be played next year, and the U.S. Amateur.
"My score today is not indicative of how well I’ve been playing," said Bastion. "To expect to make it all the way to the finals [in your first attempt] and win this thing is kind of a lofty expectation. It’s a learning experience, no doubt."
David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.