Five Intriguing Matches to Watch in Tuesday's Round of 32
October 6, 2015 | Vero Beach, Fla.
By David Shefter, USGA
The 35th U.S. Mid-Amateur is down to 32 golfers hoping to hoist the Robert T. Jones Memorial Trophy on Thursday afternoon at John’s Island Club’s West Course. If the Round of 64 is any indication, Tuesday’s Round of 32 could produce plenty of theatrics. Five of the top eights seeds from stroke play were eliminated, including co-medalist Matt Parziale. Here is a look at five interesting Round-of-32 matchups, with seeding in parenthesis:
David Noll Jr., Dalton, Ga. (29) vs. Reid Hatley, Hayden Lake, Idaho (61)
Five months after nearly losing his left thumb in a freak accident, Noll, 43, has returned to competing on the national level. In mid-April, Noll was retrieving an item from a tool box in the back of his truck when the lid unexpectedly shut on his thumb, causing nerve damage. The injury required 32 stitches and Noll could not hit a full golf shot for nearly three months. He missed out on the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at The Olympic, where his partner, Cameron Hooper, played solo, and was unable to defend his Georgia Mid-Amateur title. Noll returned to competition at the Georgia State Amateur in early July and carded a final-round 64 to tie for 17th.
“I probably came back a little early,” said Noll after his 4-and-2 win over Dale Smith in the Round of 64 on Monday. “When I shot the 64, I said, ‘OK, we can do this.’ Right now there is no pain. I don’t think my speed and my numbers have come back. But it’s a non-factor.”
Noll’s best finish in seven previous Mid-Amateurs (Round of 16) came in 2003 at Wilmington (Del.) Country Club, just days after his father died. Noll honors his dad, an ardent University of Tennessee fan, by wearing an orange ribbon on his hat.
Hatley, 34, who is making his U.S. Mid-Amateur debut this week, advanced to the Round of 32 in the 2002 U.S. Amateur, the same year his University of Arizona teammate Ricky Barnes won the championship. A knee injury and work responsibilities forced Hatley away from competitive golf for seven years. He was reinstated as an amateur in 2008.
Justin Young, Roanoke, Va. (63) vs. Patrick Tallent, Vienna, Va. (31)
Perhaps it is appropriate that someone named Young faces the oldest remaining player in the field. Young, 37, knocked off co-medalist Matt Parziale in 19 holes in the Round of 64, while fellow Virginia resident Tallent, 62, the 2014 U.S. Senior Amateur champion, held off Bowen Osborn, 1 up. Tallent is hoping his body can hold up, especially if he advances to the Round of 16 on Tuesday afternoon.
“I don’t know if I can go two rounds in one day, but we’ll worry about that if I get that far,” said Tallent, who is coming off a Round-of-64 defeat in last week’s U.S. Senior Amateur and struggles with arthritis and cartilage issues in his right knee. “I feel OK. I don’t think the knee will be the reason I lose. I think it will be somebody who beats me and I’ll shake their hand, give them my congratulations and be on my way.”
This is Tallent’s 31st USGA event compared to Young’s second (2014 Men’s State Team), so experience is in his favor. And while nobody his age has ever claimed the Mid-Amateur, two of the last four champions have been 50 or older: Mike McCoy (50) in 2013 and Randal Lewis (54) in 2011.
“I don’t think [it can be done],” he said, smiling. “I’m not good enough. I only drive it 250 [yards] … and those guys are hitting it 300. I can’t beat them with a 50-yard deficit.”
But he can keep it in the fairway and putt extremely well, which pays dividends in match play. The West Course is not overly long at 6,855 yards, although Tallent said there are a couple of par-4s – Nos. 9 and 12 in particular – that he struggles to reach in regulation. He parred both in his win over Osborn.
“The only thing I have going is this rough is really hard to play out of and I hit the ball in the fairway a lot,” said Tallent. “And that gives me a little bit of an advantage.”
Andrew Price, Lake Forest, Ill. (9) vs. Philip Lee, White Bluff, Tenn. (24)
Price, 33, thought he was going to coast into the Round of 32 after building a 5-up lead with five to play against Michael Greene on Monday. Then he lost five holes in a row before prevailing in 20 holes. Playing in his third U.S. Mid-Amateur, the insurance agent is already enjoying his best finish, having lost in the Round of 64 two years ago at the Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.).
“I felt like I played good golf,” said Price. “It would have been really bad if I didn’t find a way to win.”
A reinstated amateur who played at the University of Kansas before trying professional golf, Price played in the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour and two Web.com Tour events in 2005. Since returning to amateur golf four years ago, Price spends time supporting the Misericordia Home, a Chicago-based facility for more than 600 disabled children and adults, including his 31-year-old brother Austin.
Lee, 30, didn’t have quite the same theatrics in his Round-of-64 match, defeating Guilford College men’s golf coach Justin Tereshko, 2 up. A reinstated amateur as of 2012, Lee is a waiter, which gives him time during the day to work on his game. This is his third USGA championship and second U.S. Mid-Amateur, and the first time he’s advanced to the Round of 32. His girlfriend, Kylene Pulley, qualified for the 2012 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run.
Jess Daley, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. (13) vs. Erik Heggelund, Seattle, Wash. (45)
Daley, 37, who played at Northwestern with 2011 PGA Tour Player of the Year Luke Donald, recently regained his amateur status. The medical supply business owner is making the one-hour commute this week from his home. Daley hasn’t played in a USGA championship since the 2001 U.S. Open at Southern Hills Country Club. He also qualified for the U.S. Amateur in 1998 and 1999, the latter of which saw Donald advance to the semifinals.
Daley and Heggelund, 36, likely will have plenty to chat about since both attended high school in Washington; Daley was a high school state champion in 1996 and won the Washington State Amateur two years later. Heggelund never left the the state for college, attending the University of Washington in Seattle. The insurance consultant is a career amateur who made his USGA debut in May at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
David Gies II, Charlotte, N.C. (15) vs. Bob Royak, Alpharetta, Ga. (18)
This is another young-vs.-old matchup with Gies, 26, meeting Royak, 54, one of six players 50 or older to qualify for match play. Gies works at the Quail Hollow Club, site of the PGA Tour’s Wells Fargo Championship and the 2017 PGA Championship. The former University of North Alabama golfer is competing in his first Mid-Amateur and fourth USGA championship. This is Royak’s fifth U.S. Mid-Amateur and ninth USGA championship. In 2007, he won the Atlanta Open as an amateur after regaining his status 12 years earlier. He and his wife, Patricia, own a technology staffing and consulting company. The Albany, N.Y., native graduated from the University of Tampa in 1983.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.