U.S. MID-AMATEUR
Harvey, Wilder Take Route 66 for First-Round Lead at Stonewall September 10, 2016 | Elverson, Pa. By Brian DePasquale, USGA

Brad Wilder, a semifinalist in 2015, opened with a 4-under 66 on the North Course to share the first-round lead at Stonewall. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Mid-Amateur Home

Brad Wilder, 37, of Fort Wright, Ky., and Scott Harvey, 38, of Greensboro, N.C., each shot a 4-under 66 Saturday to share the lead after the first round of stroke play in the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall. Both players shot their scores on the par-70, 6,711-yard North Course. The par-70, 6,870-yard Old Course is also being used during the stroke-play portion of the championship.

Wilder, who reached the semifinals in last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur before losing to eventual champion Sammy Schmitz, used back-to-back birdies to rebound from a bogey at No. 14. He rammed a 15-footer into the back of the hole on No. 15 and then hit a 7-iron to within 20 feet on 478-yard, par-4 16th. Wilder converted the double-breaking putt for his fifth birdie of the day.

“My guess coming in was that this one was going to be more gettable,” said Wilder about playing the North Course as opposed to the Old Course. “The hole locations were kind of hard but not really hard. So I think there were some you could get, obviously, and others you had to be smart with.”

Harvey, the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, made four of his six birdies on the inward nine. He struck a sand wedge to within 4 feet on No. 16 before delivering a lob wedge to within 6 feet on the par-5 18th, his sixth birdie of the round.

“My game is not as sharp as the number is; it’s a little bit of smoke and mirrors there,” said Harvey, a three-time Mid-Amateur stroke-play medalist. “But as the round went on I felt a little more comfortable, so hopefully it keeps trending in that direction.”

The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Thursday, Sept. 15, starting at 7:45 a.m. EDT.

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.

Jim Coleman, 42, of Billings, Mont., and Derek Busby, 32, of Ruston, La., each carded 3-under 67s on the North Course. Coleman strung together birdies on four of his opening eight holes and climbed to 5 under par for the championship when he birdied the par-5 third. But he bogeyed Nos. 6 and 8 to fall from the top of the leader board.

“I’ve never been in this position in a big event like this,” said Coleman, who played in the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur and admitted to being nervous over his final four holes. “My expectations coming into this thing were that if I were to make match play it would be a big deal for me.”

Busby, who competed as a professional for a few years before regaining his amateur status, totaled four birdies and one bogey overall, including a 3-under 32 on the inward nine.

“My wedges were really good today, so I was able to take advantage of the shorter holes and that gave me some leeway to not have to press on the really difficult holes,” said Busby, who is playing in his second U.S. Mid-Amateur.

Scott Harvey's 66 on the North Course put the 2014 champion in position to be a U.S. Mid-Amateur medalist for a fourth time. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Chad Niezing, 36, of Manchester, Mo., and Claudio Consul, 33, of Germany, each fired a 2-under 68 on the North Course. Niezing’s round was highlighted by an eagle on the par-4 10th, when he holed a 90-yard lob wedge, and a birdie on par-5 18th.

“Obviously that was nice, it was unexpected,” said Niezing of the eagle. He followed it with a birdie on No. 11 to improve to 4 under on the day but then double-bogeyed the par-4 16th. “Unfortunately I got a couple bad breaks on the back nine, but you know, it’s a national championship and they set it up hard and you have to expect that kind of stuff.”

Consul, who was the runner-up at this year’s European Mid-Amateur and is No. 65 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, made birdies on holes 6, 9, 10 and 15 while playing in his first USGA championship.

“I struck the ball really well and hit lots of greens, and putted very well, which is key around the North Course, particularly, with the tricky greens,” said Consul, who has a Ph.D. in engineering and works in Dusseldorf’s fashion industry.

Tom Werkmeister, 48, of Grandville, Mich., and Jesse Daley, 38, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., also carded 68s. Werkmeister, whose first-round score was one stroke off the Old Course record, advanced to the 2014 Mid-Amateur semifinals. Daley reached the quarterfinals last year.

Rebounding from a double-bogey at No. 10, Werkmeister reeled off three consecutive birdies. He stuffed a 58-degree wedge to within a foot at the par-5 11th and later made a 25-footer on the par-4 13th.

“When you have a good round going I like to get more aggressive,” he said. “That’s my style and that’s what I am comfortable with. I hate laying up on a par 5 even though sometimes I have to.”

Joseph Saladino, 36, of Huntington, N.Y., turned in the morning’s best round on the Old Course with a 1-under 69. Saladino, who is competing in sixth U.S. Mid-Amateur and has reached the Round of 16 twice, sank a 25-footer from off the green that hit the flagstick and dropped in for a birdie on the par-4 18th, his ninth hole.

“I had a good judge of the pace,” said Saladino, who is employed as an insurance broker. “Right when you get going on the green it really runs away, so it was more of a defensive play.”

Craig Mason, 35, of Ashburn, Va., came to the Old Course’s 16th tee in the lead at 5 under but recorded three consecutive double bogeys to end the round. Mason, who was a four-time all-conference player at George Mason University and is competing in his first USGA event, finished at 1-over 71.

Schmitz, 36, of Farmington, Minn. and Nathan Smith, 38, of Pittsburgh, Pa., was among several past U.S. Mid-Amateur champions who struggled in the oppressive low-90s heat. Schmitz turned in a 5-over 75 on the Old Course. Smith, who owns a record four Mid-Amateur titles, needed two late birdies to register a 6-over 76 on the North Course.

The second round begins on Sunday, Sept. 11, at 7:15 a.m., with the low 64 scores following the completion of 36 holes advancing to match play, which is scheduled to start on Monday. Live scoring and updates are available throughout the championship on usga.org.

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