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Zahringer Defeats Courville, 3 and 2, To Win U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship

By Pete Kowalski

| Sep 26, 2002 | Greenwich, Conn.

(USGA/J.D. Cuban)

George Zahringer, 49, of New York, N.Y., became the oldest champion in the 22-year history of the U.S. Mid-Amateur when he defeated Jerry Courville, 43, of Milford, Conn., 3 and 2, Thursday in the 36-hole match play final at The Stanwich Club (par 72, 6,983 yards).

“I am thrilled beyond words is really the best way to express it,” said Zahringer of winning his first USGA championship. “I know that may not be great copy, but it was just a great day. I worked hard to try and stay focused. It's easy while playing a 36 hole match to let your mind race ahead.”

Zahringer, the first medalist to win the title and a member at Stanwich, took a 1-up lead after the morning 18 and built his lead to 3 up after 20 holes. However, Courville, the 1995 champion playing in his third Mid-Amateur final, won the next three holes to square the match. Courville, who was hampered by a sore back, held only one lead, 1 up, after 11 holes.

“It felt like I was playing in a straight jacket on out there,” said Courville of the muscular troubles in his back.

Zahringer and Courville, who hold a total of 13 combined Metropolitan Golf Association Player of the Year Awards, agreed that the critical point in the match was the 27th hole, Stanwich’s 576-yard, par 5.

Courville three-putted for bogey and Zahringer made a 6-foot par putt to win the hole. It also marked the beginning of a stretch of holes in which Zahringer won four of the next five to fashion a 4-up lead.

“I think that was an important turning point because Jerry had just holed out on No.8 from the bunker on the 26th hole,” said Zahringer of Courville’s birdie from the bunker that squared the match.

The players halved the 32nd hole with par. Courville, who set the Mid-Amateur mark with 33 career match play wins, then won the par-4 33rd with an unlikely birdie from an adjacent fairway. With a 3-up lead with three holes to play, Zahringer hit the green on the par-3 34th (16th) and won the championship with a par to halve the hole.

On a rainy and chilly day, the two highly-regarded players, both of whom reside 35 miles from Stanwich, tried to find the single mindedness needed to win.

“I just tried not to get distracted by thinking about when you got a couple of up, what does it mean to win and all this stuff,” said Zahringer,
only the second player to reach two consecutive finals. “That creeps into your mind. It's something that has to be managed.”

The champion receives custody of the Robert T. Jones Jr. Memorial Trophy, an exemption from qualifying for the 2003 U.S. Amateur, and a likely invitation to play in the 2003 Masters.

The eight quarterfinalists are exempt from having to qualify for the 2003 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Wilmington Country Club in Greenville, Del., Oct. 11-16.

The U.S. Mid-Amateur, for players 25 and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.