BETHLEHEM, Pa. – When Michael McCoy won last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur in convincing fashion at the Country Club of Birmingham, he fulfilled a longstanding goal of becoming a USGA champion.
"It’s one of the rewards for what’s been my lifelong passion," said McCoy, who will defend his title in the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which will be conducted Sept. 6-11 at Saucon Valley Country Club, in Bethlehem, Pa. "I’ve competed, practiced, played, taken lessons and traveled. I’ve done everything I can to be the best player I can be. It’s an honor."
McCoy, 51, of West Des Moines, Iowa, became the second-oldest Mid-Amateur winner last year when he defeated Bill Williamson, 8 and 6, in the championship match. In a golf career that spans more than three decades, he now has a national title on his résumé.
"It was the culmination of a long journey," said McCoy, who was the low amateur in July’s U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla. "I have been trying to win a USGA championship since I was about [age] 14. It was the frosting on the cake for a long amateur career."
McCoy believes the title of USGA champion is also a privilege that carries a responsibility. He wants to be an example to his fellow mid-amateurs (age 25 and older) who qualify for this year’s championship.
"[Two-time Mid-Amateur champion] Tim Jackson encouraged me, McCoy said. "I will encourage them to keep competing and keep working hard on their game. Keep making that commitment. I hope that [my winning] inspires some of my peers who are working and trying to raise a family to figure out a way to stay competitive."
An insurance executive with four children, McCoy has fared well in balancing family, work and golf. He played Saucon Valley’s Old Course, which will be used for stroke play and match play, and the Weyhill Course, the companion course for stroke play, in a recent visit.
"Two fantastic courses that are going to challenge everybody," said McCoy, who competed in his 40th USGA championship at this month’s U.S. Amateur, held at Atlantic Athletic Club Aug. 11-17. "The greens are perfect. You really have to hit proper golf shots. I suspect the cream will rise to the top at Saucon Valley. They are going to have a great champion, someone who can really play."
Saucon Valley Membership Rises to Occasion
Andrew Warner, the president of Saucon Valley Country Club, is pleased that general chairman Barry Treadwell has 400 volunteers and 16 committee chairmen involved in the day-to-day operations of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Part of the tradition of Saucon Valley is giving back to the game of golf, said Warner, who also served as the chairman for the restoration projects of the Old and Weyhill courses. It’s great to see the current membership step up. It’s one of the best organized events that I have seen.
The commitment of the volunteers will allow the USGA to have a team of walking scorers and spotters for each group during the stroke-play portion of the championship, just the second time this will occur in the history of conducting USGA amateur events.
"This is indicative of the quality of the club and the enthusiasm of the volunteers," said Bill McCarthy, director of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship for the USGA. "The players will truly appreciate it."
The Course for the Mid-Amateur
Bill McCarthy is in charge of setting up the two courses at Saucon Valley Country Club. The Old Course will be used for both stroke-play qualifying and match play, while the Weyhill Course is the companion stroke-play qualifying course. Competitors will play 18 holes on each course, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play.
"Our goal in a two-course championship is to provide a companion course almost or at the level of the quality of the match-play course," McCarthy said. "That’s what we are finding here."
The Old Course will be set up at 7,076 yards and will play to a par of 36-35–71. The Weyhill Course is a par-71, 7,054-yard layout. Herbert Strong designed the Old Course, which opened for play in 1922. Weyhill opened in 1968 and was designed by David and William Gordon.
"[The players] are going to have a variety of shots to face," McCarthy said. "It’s going to be long and it’s going to be short. Our goal is to have them pull every club in the bag by the completion of the round. There is a natural variety here."
McCarthy continued, "We don’t want to limit their ability but allow the creativity and allow their ability to shine through. That is the strength of these courses."
U.S. Mid-Amateur Notes
Saucon Valley Country Club has hosted six USGA championships, including the 1992 and 2000 U.S. Senior Opens and 2009 U.S. Women’s Open … The club was also the site for the 1951 U.S. Amateur, 1983 U.S. Junior Amateur and 1987 U.S. Senior Amateur … With this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, Pennsylvania joins California and Minnesota as the only states to have hosted all 13 current USGA championships … Sectional qualifying, conducted over 18 holes, began July 16 at 68 sites in 44 states … Qualifying concluded on Aug. 8 … Following the two rounds of stroke-play qualifying, match play will begin on Sept. 6 … The 36-hole championship final is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 11 … Matthew Mattare, the son of Gene Mattare, Saucon Valley’s general manager and director of golf, has qualified for the championship … Mattare was the medalist at last year’s Mid-Amateur and was a quarterfinalist in 2012 … James Gallagher, a retired Air Force colonel who served in Gulf Wars I and II and Kosovo and received the Distinguished Flying Cross, has qualified for his third consecutive Mid-Amateur … Nick and Nikhil Desai, cousins who have ties to the country of Zambia and have previously competed in the Mid-Amateur, both qualified at the Colts Neck, N.J., sectional … Nathan Smith, the only four-time winner, is among 20 players who were fully exempt from qualifying … Smith and Todd White, who will play in his fourth Mid-Amateur, were members of last year’s winning USA Walker Cup Team … There are seven U.S. Mid-Amateur champions currently in this year’s field, including Smith (2003, 2009, 2010, 2012), Austin Eaton III (2004), Randal Lewis (2011), Michael McCoy (2013), Kevin Marsh (2005), Steve Wilson (2008) and Dave Womack (2006) … The champion receives custody of the Robert T. Jones Memorial Mid-Amateur Trophy for one year… Jones, the most famous of all amateurs, won five U.S. Amateurs and four U.S. Opens.
Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.