Bridgehampton, N.Y. — As U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship semifinal play began Wednesday afternoon, Scott Harvey plopped into a wicker chair next to the driving range.
His run at Atlantic Golf Club was finished after a 3-and-2 loss to 2008 Mid-Am semifinalist Sean Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa. Clearly, Harvey did not make the trip to Long Island just to have his stay shortened by a day and a few more wins.
But boy did that chair feel comfortable.
Whew … it’s been a grind, said Harvey, of Greensboro, N.C.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur is an arduous mental and physical strain. At first, that might not appear to be the case. Thirty-six holes of stroke play are conducted on the weekend? Average Joes play that on a weekend.
A scheduled 18-hole match-play round on Monday? C’mon, really?
Then, if a player remains fortunate, two consecutive days of scheduled 18-hole matches precedes a 36-hole finale. Grind is a term often used, and even then it does not adequately describe the affects the week has on the body.
Never, replied quarterfinalist Anthony Barrera of San Jose, Calif., when asked if he had ever played as much golf over a six-day stretch.
And that is if the week goes according to planned, which this championship did not.
Tuesday’s four-plus hour weather delay ruined that prospect. Since the delay came at noon, matches were interrupted and others were delayed. Uncertainty took hold.
Imagine being a stand-by in the airport the night before Thanksgiving. You will catch a flight eventually, but when? The clock hands have to be moving slower, right?
Todd Burgan, of Knoxville, Tenn., a quarterfinalist a year ago, won the opening two holes against fellow Volunteer Tim Jackson when play was suspended due to darkness on Tuesday night. He came back Wednesday and finished a 4-and-3 victory. Roughly 30 minutes later he was on his way to a 5-and-3 quarterfinal win over Tim Mickelson, of San Diego, Calif.
After another short break, out he went again, this time losing 5 and 3 to reigning champion Nathan Smith.
My hamstrings hurt, said Burgan after the win over Mickelson. Never had he played 54 holes in a day, but he had already logged 28 before another 15 against Smith.
That’s a total of 43 holes.
Burgan said he spent Tuesday’s delay eating, reading, watching television, anything that would pass the time just to play two holes.
What loomed, though, was a marathon Wednesday.
Play began at 6:52 a.m. EDT, 10 minutes past official sunrise.
Smith secured his place in Thursday’s final — his third appearance since 2003 — before sunset came at 6:34 p.m. Tim Hogarth, of Northridge, Calif., defeated Smith’s close friend, Sean Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., 2 and 1, 20 minutes past official nightfall.
Do the math. That’s nearly 12 hours of game time, save for an hour or so to hydrate and nourish the body.
That’s a lot of golf … a lot of golf, said Smith, who endured a similar week last year at Kiawah Island Club in South Carolina.
At the 2009 championship, rains pushed the entire opening round of match play into Tuesday along with the second round. The third and quarterfinal rounds were Wednesday, the semifinals on Thursday and the final on Friday. Not since 1997 had weather played such a factor in scheduling.
We got here way before dark and we’re going to play until it gets darks. But I understand why we’re trying to get it in. There’s [bad] weather rolling in, so you’ve just got to do it, said Smith, who admitted after his semifinal win to not knowing how many holes he played on Wednesday.
The weather has added another element to the mix. Winds have been like little children running through the house – you’re never quite sure which room they will run from next. Because of the weather, holes were fresh, firm and fast one day; soggy, soft and slow the next.
Aside from a stroke-play round at The Bridge, Harvey thought he would have understood Atlantic Golf Club’s intricacies by Wednesday. In hindsight, he chuckled at that notion.
Every single day it was different, he said. One day I hit 5-wood into the green, another day I hit the same drive and have no chance of reaching the green. Yeah, it’s a mental grind having to hit different shots each day, but it also makes you have to stay focused. Personally, I loved it.
Barrera admitted that his inexperience during a 36-hour span over Tuesday and Wednesday may have played a part in his 3-and-2 loss to Smith. This was all new to him.
Barrera easily won his second-round match before Tuesday’s delay. Later, he started his third-round match, which spilled into Wednesday morning and resulted in a 19-hole win.
I didn’t hit the ball that well [Wednesday morning], then didn’t get to warm up and figure things out before I had 25 minutes to my [quarterfinal match], he said. I guess it was good experience for me, though. I’ll know what to expect.
Even then, that might not be enough.
Stuart Hall is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship websites.