U.S. MID-AMATEUR
Trio of Medalists Survive, Advance to Round of 32 September 12, 2016 | Elverson, Pa. By Brian DePasquale, USGA

Co-medalist Thomas Werkmeister was extended to 20 holes before prevailing over Ben Blundell in the Round of 64 on Monday. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Mid-Amateur Home

Michael Muehr, 44, of Potomac Falls, Va., and Tom Werkmeister, 48, of Grandville, Mich., used different paths to win his first-round match Monday in the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall. Muehr posted a 3-and-2 victory while Werkmeister rallied in 20 holes on the par-70, 6,870-yard Old Course.

Muehr, the top seed in match play and a 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur semifinalist, held off Kyle Hoffman, of Lincoln, R.I. The 27-year-old had advanced into the bracket as the No. 64 seed earlier in the day after surviving a 14-for-1 playoff.

Muehr took advantage of the par-5 first and third holes to build a 2-up lead and never trailed. Hoffman, who won the playoff for the final match-play berth on the third hole with a 7-foot par putt, was still hanging around on the inward nine until Muehr won No. 13 with a par and the par-3 15th with a bogey.

“The more times you put yourself in that spot the more comfortable you are,” said Muehr, who played on the PGA Tour for three years before being reinstated as an amateur. “It’s a matter of managing expectations.”

Werkmeister, who was a co-medalist in stroke play along with Muehr and Scott Harvey, trailed late against Ben Blundell, 28, of Oklahoma City, Okla. Blundell found the left greenside bunker on the par-4 second, the 20th hole, but sank a 20-footer for par. Werkmeister, who was putting on the nearly the same line as his opponent, then holed a match-clinching 19-foot birdie putt. 

“I am kind of proud of myself,” said Werkmeister, who is competing in his seventh U.S. Mid-Amateur and reached the semifinals in 2014. “I had a lot of negative thoughts going on out there. It’s a relief to get this one.”

Blundell held a 2-up margin before Werkmeister bounced back to square the match with a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 13 and a curling 6-footer for another birdie on No. 16. The championship’s No. 2 seed later halved both the 17th and 19th holes with par putts to stay alive.

“I am excited and exhausted,” he said. “I stole it even though he didn’t really give me anything.”

The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship continues with the Round of 32 and Round of 16 on Tuesday. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be played on Wednesday. The championship concludes with a 36-hole final on Thursday, Sept. 15, starting at 7:45 a.m. EDT.

Harvey, the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, also had to regroup on the inward nine en route to a 2-and-1 win over Mike Stackus, 32, of Ellicott City, Md. Stackus won three consecutive holes to take the lead, but Harvey, a four-time Mid-Amateur stroke-play medalist, responded by winning holes 11, 12, and 13.

Harvey, 38, of Greensboro, N.C., made a 7-foot birdie putt on the 605-yard, par-5 11th to square match. He went back ahead with a two-putt par at the following hole and a conceded birdie at the par-4 13th.

“Yeah, it definitely bailed me out today,” said No. 3 seed about his putting. “It bailed me out a couple times yesterday to be co-medalist, and it’s keeping me around right now. But the further you go into match play, you better start doing it all.”

Derek Busby, 32, of Ruston, La., posted a 7-and-6 triumph over Antonio Grillo, 26, of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Busby, the No. 4 seed, won seven consecutive holes to take control. Busby, who did not make match play in his first U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2014, credits some of the techniques used in his real estate job for improving his mental game.

“It’s eliminated some mental barriers,” said Busby, a reinstated amateur. “Now I am really able to get focused and work on what I need to work on and know that if I prepare properly there are no limits.”

Co-medalist Michael Muehr eventually pulled away for a 3-and-2 win over playoff survivor Kyle Hoffman in the Round of 64. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Busby’s second shots showed no boundaries as some nifty 8-irons set up back-to-back birdies on holes 8 and 9. His approach to the par-4 eighth landed on a slope and stopped within one foot for a conceded birdie. He made a 5-foot putt at the next hole. Busby closed out the match by hitting a wedge to within 6 feet at No. 12.

Last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Sammy Schmitz, 36, of Farmington, Minn., defeated Roger Hoit, 52, of Summit, N.J., 3 and 2. Schmitz won the opening three holes with one bogey and two pars but still held just a 1-up lead heading to the par-3 seventh. He regained his momentum and grabbed a two-hole advantage by sinking a breaking 20-foot birdie putt.

“I had the same situation last year where I struggled in the first match and didn’t have my best,” said Schmitz, who built a 4-up cushion with winning pars on Nos. 8 and 10. “It was kind of a wake-up call. I came out hot the next day so I am hoping to do that again tomorrow.”

Schmitz, who finished strong in stroke-play qualifying with a second-round 70 that included birdies on his final two holes, does not feel the pressure of a championship defense.

“It seemed a little ridiculous to have in your head that you are going to defend a USGA title,” said Schmitz, who competed in this year’s Masters. “They are very hard to win. I was fortunate to win one.”

Carl Santos-Ocampo, 28, of Naples, Fla., knocked off Todd White, 48, of Spartanburg, S.C., 5 and 4. Santos-Ocampo’s torrid play on the outward nine against a member of the winning 2013 USA Walker Cup Team was keyed by an eagle at the par-4 fourth. He holed a 145-yard, 9-iron from the right rough.

In other Round-of-64 matches, Brad Nurski, who was the runner-up in the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur, recorded a 1-up victory over David Noll, 44, of Dalton, Ga. Nurski, 37, of St. Joseph, Mo., won holes 16 and 17 to move in front. Jesse Daley, 38, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., also reached the Round of 32 with a 6-and-5 decision against Tyler McKeever, 34, of Atlanta, Ga. Daley was a Mid-Amateur quarterfinalist last year.

Brad Valois, 29, of Warwick, R.I., defeated Draegen Majors, 28, of Tulsa, Okla., in 20 holes. Valois was the stroke-play medalist in the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur and reached the Round of 32. Valois’ victory was one of four extra-hole matches today.

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.

Brian DePasquale is the USGA’s manager of championship communications. Email him at bdepasquale@usga.org

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