BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Tom Werkmeister received one of the highest honors for a golfer in June when he was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
He just might trump it this week at Saucon Valley Country Club.
Werkmeister, 46, of Kentwood, Mich., a suburb of Grand Rapids, advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship with a pair of victories Tuesday on the Old Course. He first eliminated 2013 runner-up Bill Williamson, 4 and 3, and then he grinded out a 1-up decision over Shane Sigsbee.
A veteran of nine USGA championships and now five Mid-Amateurs, this is the furthest Werkmeister has advanced. In fact, he had never made it beyond the Round of 64 in any USGA event.
But Werkmeister nearly let it all slip away against Sigsbee, who rallied from a 3-down deficit to square the match with an eagle-3 on No. 15. After two halves on 16 and 17, Werkmeister closed out Sigsbee with a short birdie putt on 18.
I lost my swing on the back nine, said Werkmeister, who operates his own Internet sales company. I was hitting my driver everywhere, so I went to my 3-wood the last few holes and hit it straight. I was in grind mode on the back nine there because it was a struggle.
I expected him to make a run at me. I was trying to stay in the moment. I hit a great shot here [on 18] and that kind of made it all worthwhile.
While Werkmeister might not have a national résumé, he has won six Michigan Mid-Amateurs, the 2009 Michigan Amateur and the 2013 Michigan Open. The Golf Association of Michigan named him its player of the year in 2009, 2010 and 2012. He also was a junior college All-American in 1987.
Later this month, he’ll represent Michigan – with Nathan Clark and Andrew Chapman – at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship at French Lick (Ind.) Resort.
When he was inducted into the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame this year, he joined the likes of U.S. Open champions Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour and Ed Furgol, and U.S. Women’s Open champion Meg Mallon.
That’s been my biggest accomplishment in golf, said Werkmeister.
With three more wins, that could change.
I always felt like I was good enough to make a run, said Werkmeister, who also has rolled eight perfect-300 games in bowling. I’m upset, but not that upset that I am missing my first two weeks of bowling. But I guess I’ll stick around here for a while.
Watery Ending For Mattare
Matt Mattare has probably played the 17th hole on the Old Course a thousand times and rarely has he found the creek to the left of the fairway. But on the biggest stage – the Round of 16 of the Mid-Amateur – the Saucon Valley member, whose father, Gene, is the club’s longtime director of golf/general manager, hooked his drive into the water. Trailing 2013 USA Walker Cup competitor Todd White by a hole, the mistake cost Mattare the match.
I’m not going to sleep tonight because of that, said Mattare after the 2-and-1 defeat. This is not the storybook ending I was hoping for.
As he walked up the 18th fairway toward the clubhouse, Mattare, 28, of Jersey City, N.J., was greeted by dozens of well-wishers. Everyone congratulated the Allentown (Pa.) Central Catholic graduate on the week, despite not earning the ultimate prize of a USGA championship. All week, Mattare received hundreds of texts and good-luck messages from co-workers, club members and friends.
I didn’t find it that tough, said Mattare of the unique opportunity to compete in a USGA championship at his home club. I just cannot believe I hit that shot on 17. The last thousand times I’ve played it, I might have been in that creek once. That was just so dumb.
Now it’s back to work on Wednesday for Mattare, who is an operations associate at Morgan Stanley in New York City.
Bell Makes Most Of First Match-Play Experience
Don Bell has played in five USGA championships and estimates he has attempted to qualify for about 20 more. At this week's U.S. Mid-Amateur at Saucon Valley Country Club, however, he experienced a first – match play at a USGA event.
Bell, 50, of Port Orange, Fla., didn't play like someone just happy to be there. He ousted Jon Olson in Monday's Round of 64 and 2013 quarterfinalist Matt Schneider Tuesday morning in the Round of 32 – both by 3-and-1 margins – before co-medalist Brad Nurski ended his run with a 4-and-3 decision in the Round of 16.
After missed cuts at the 2008 Mid-Amateur and this year's U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club, Bell was thankful to experience a new brand of championship golf.
"It's been so much fun to get to match play and be able to compete and not have to worry about the penalty of missing one shot," he said. "You can be a little more free about it. The competition was tremendous. All the guys I played against played great."
Before he could experience USGA match play for the first time, Bell, who has also played in two USGA Men's State Team Championships for Florida, first needed to make it through a 4-for-3 playoff at Southern Hills Plantation Golf Club in Brooksville, Fla. After coming up short in so many previous qualifying attempts, the playoff ended with relatively little drama as Bell and two others made par and the fourth player bogeyed to end the proceedings after one hole.
While undoubtedly one of the highlights of his golf career, Bell's Mid-Amateur experience was only part of a successful year on the course. He also played in this year's Senior British Open at Royal Porthcawl as one of nine amateurs in the field. Bell, a realtor for RE/MAX, shot 80-79 to miss the cut, but left with gained knowledge and an unforgettable experience.
"First, I learned my high draw doesn't work in Wales," he said, laughing. "But to be able to play against guys like Bernhard Langer, Fred Couples and Tom Watson – what a pleasure it was to watch them and just be on the range and same venue with them."
Odds And Ends
The quarterfinals are now devoid of any local golfers with Mattare and Andy Latowski, of Plainsboro, N.J., losing in the Round of 16. Latowski, a member of Philadelphia Cricket Club about an hour south of Saucon Valley, fell to 2005 champion Kevin Marsh, 7 and 6 … Marsh is the only quarterfinalist from the 2013 Mid-Amateur to reach the final eight this year. He lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Michael McCoy … Quarterfinalist Brad Nurski, the co-medalist and No. 2 seed, is vying to become the first left-handed champion of the U.S. Mid-Amateur…The last two 50-year-olds were eliminated in the Round of 16. Besides Bell falling to Brad Nurski, Ned Zachar, 52, lost in 19 holes to Michael Harrington.