U.S. MID-AMATEUR
38th U.S. Mid-Amateur: 5 Things to Know for Tuesday September 25, 2018 | Charlotte, N.C. By David Shefter, USGA

The only two USGA champions left in the field, Jeff Wilson (above) and Stewart Hagestad, square off in the Round of 32. (USGA/Chris Keane)

U.S. Mid-Amateur Home

A few notable names were eliminated during Monday’s Round of 64 of the 38th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Charlotte Country Club, the biggest being defending champion Matt Parziale, who fell to Andres Schonbaum, of Argentina, 3 and 2.

Such is the fickle nature of match play, where just a few mistakes can mean a ticket out of town.

Heading into Tuesday, 32 players still have a shot to win the championship and earn an exemption into the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links. The winners in the Round of 32 will be right back at it Tuesday afternoon for the Round of 16. Just eight competitors will still be vying for the title by day’s end.

Here are five things to know as the remaining field prepares for a potential double-round day:

1. Golden State Showdown

There will be plenty of entertaining matches on Tuesday morning, but few can match the pedigree of the 8:05 a.m. EDT showdown between reigning U.S. Senior Amateur champion Jeff Wilson and 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Stewart Hagestad.

One of the best from Northern California (Wilson) meets one of the best from Southern California. And neither player will have to exchange résumés on the first tee.

Wilson, 55, of Fairfield, is the only player to have earned medalist honors in the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur, and is also one of just two playersto earn  low-amateur honors in the U.S. Open (2000) and U.S. Senior Open (2018). Hagestad, 27, of Newport Beach, has qualified for the past two U.S. Opens and represented the USA on the winning 2017 Walker Cup Team.

2. Carolina Connections

Had his family not moved from Cary, N.C., to The Woodlands, Texas, just as he was about to enter high school, Ryan Eibner might have been a teammate of Kevin O’Connell at Green Hope High School. Ryan’s older brother, Drew, played with O’Connell on the golf team, helping the school win a  state title in 2003.

The younger Eibner and O’Connell caught up with each other last Thursday during a practice round, and the two could meet in the semifinals if things keep going as well as they did in Monday’s Round of 64. O’Connell, 30, of Cary, rolled to an 8-and-7 victory over Nick Reardon, while Eibner, 27, of Dallas, Texas, defeated Edward Fryatt, 6 and 4.

“We knew the [golf] coach [at Green Hope], David Allen, very well there,” said Eibner, who played at East Carolina University with current PGA Tour player Harold Varner III. O’Connell played for the University of North Carolina. “He’s kind of been a mentor to me through college and beyond.”

Eibner’s oldest brother, Brett, is serving as his caddie this week, and has spent 10 years in professional baseball, the last six bouncing between the majors and minors with the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Dodgers and now Texas Rangers. He had Tommy John surgery in 2017 and sat out this season.

Ryan briefly played professionally, only to give it up for financial reasons, as well as mental and physical fatigue. Returning to amateur golf has refreshed his passion for the game.

“I actually love doing this way more,” he said.

And throw in a quasi-homecoming to North Carolina, it’s not bad.

3. Good Start

A year ago, Scott Anderson, of Columbus, Ohio, made a strong run to the quarterfinals, where he finally lost to eventual runner-up Josh Nichols. He’s making early waves again in 2018. Anderson earned the No. 6 seed after posting 2-under 140 in stroke play, and then took out 2011 runner-up Kenneth Cook, 3 and 2, in Monday’s Round of 64.

 “I knew a lot more what to expect. Last year we really didn't. I think what I know now is everybody out here is really good, so you're never going to have that easy match,” he said. “You know people are going to make putts, hit good shots, and you just have to mentally prepare yourself for that and understand it's not going to be the easy pace that you might see some other places.”

4. Survive And Advance

For Matt Mattare and four other golfers, Monday was a survival test, not only advancing out of the 16-for-12 playoff, but then having to beat opponents who were highly seeded in the draw. As the old saying goes: Just let me qualify for match play and anything can happen.

Mattare, 32, of Jersey City, N.J., knocked out 2017 medalist and No. 3 seed Brad Tilley, of Easton, Conn., while 2015 semifinalist David Bolen, 39, of San Antonio, Texas, eliminated the No. 2 seed Rob Laird, of Tulsa, Okla.

Now they must do it all over again on Tuesday. Mattare and Bolen both know the path will continue to be more challenging. Bolen faces Argentinian Andres Schonbaum, who eliminated defending champion Matt Parziale, while Mattare meets Brett Tomfohrde, of Chicago, Ill.

“Just one shot at a time, get the ball in the fairway, and figure out what to do from there,” said Bolen.

5. Vegas, Baby!

Derek Busby, 34, of Ruston, La., didn’t make an emergency trip to Las Vegas last week to place any bets or try his luck in a casino. Instead, he visited renowned instructor Butch Harmon for a quick putting lesson. Whatever Harmon told him, it seemed to have worked. Busby posted 1-under 141 in stroke play to earn the No. 11 seed, then knocked out 2016 semifinalist Dan Sullivan, of Pasadena, Calif., 3 and 2, on Monday.

Busby will be looking to continue his solid play against Danny Simmerman, of San Antonio, Texas, on Tuesday at 10:15 a.m.

“We made some pretty drastic changes,” said Busby, who is teaming up with Hagestad in next year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes. “We're really working on releasing the putter through the ball. You'll see me with my practice strokes. I do a lot of one-handed drills to try to get the putter releasing online through the ball. It's helped. That was some good putting down the stretch when I needed it.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.