History of the U.S. Mid-Amateur
In 1981, the USGA inaugurated its first new championship for amateurs in four years, the U.S. Mid-Amateur. The Mid-Amateur, for amateur golfers of at least 25 years of age, provides a formal national championship for the post-college amateur, for whom the game is truly an avocation.
Before the arrival of the Mid-Amateur, the post-college player could compete in the Amateur Championship, sometimes successfully, but these older amateurs faced greater odds. While they fit their golf around their work and families, they were most often competing against college golfers, for whom the game is close to a full-time activity.
Only about 40 percent of those who qualify for the U.S. Amateur Championship each year are at least 25, although several have been quite successful. For example, Bob Lewis Jr., then 41, reached the Amateur final in 1980, and the semifinals in 1981 and 1986. Jay Sigel won consecutive Amateur titles in 1982 and 1983 (at ages 37 and 38, respectively), then added the Mid-Amateur title in 1983, 1985, and 1987. In 1986, Buddy Alexander, 33, a reinstated amateur, won the U.S. Amateur. And in 1993, 41-year-old John Harris won the Amateur. He remains the last mid-amateur to have won the U.S. Amateur.
In general, however, most post-college amateurs found themselves at a disadvantage competing against college golfers. Thus, the Mid-Amateur Championship was born.
Played at the Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, the first Mid-Amateur drew 1,638 entries in 1981. The field included three former Amateur Champions: Gary Cowan (1966, 1971), Marvin Giles III (1972), and Fred Ridley (1975). Jim Holtgrieve, 33, of Des Peres, Mo., defeated fellow Walker Cupper Bob Lewis Jr., 37, of Warren, Ohio, in the final, 2 up. Holtgrieve and Lewis each later captained a pair of USA Walker Cup Teams.
In 1983, Jay Sigel, 39, of Berwyn, Pa., became the first golfer in 53 years to win two USGA Championships in the same year when he added the Mid-Amateur Championship to the U.S. Amateur Championship he had won just 32 days earlier.
Sigel became the Mid-Amateur's first two-time winner when he again captured the championship in 1985. Sigel won his third Mid-Amateur in 1987. Combined with his two U.S. Amateur titles (1982, 1983) Sigel had won a total of five USGA championships. When he turned 50, Sigel joined the Champions Tour and registered eight victories.
In 1985's first qualifying round, Don Bliss of St. Louis, made holes-in-one on the eighth and 10th holes at Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas, Texas. Bliss became the only player to score two holes-in-one in one round of a USGA championship.
Jim Stuart of Macon, Ga., became the first player to win two consecutive Mid-Amateur Championships when he won in 1990 and 1991. That feat was duplicated in 2010 by Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa., who joined Sigel as a three-time champion of the event. Smith won his first Mid-Amateur in 2003, then followed up with victories in 2009 and 2010. He won a record-fourth Mid-Amateur in 2012.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship has continued to grow in popularity and in 1989 topped 3,000 entries for the first time.
In its short history, the championship's unique age qualification has inspired similar tournaments throughout the country and there are now Mid-Amateur events in nearly every state.
In 2001, the final match, for the first time in the history of the championship, was expanded from 18 to 36 holes. Tim Jackson, of Germantown, Tenn., defeated George Zahringer, of New York, 1 up, at San Joaquin C.C. in Fresno, Calif. Zahringer would win the title a year later at The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn., his home club. He also became the first medalist to win the championship.
And in 2011, Randal Lewis, Alma, Mich., became the championship's oldest winner at the age of 54. Mike McCoy, of Des Moines, Iowa, became the second 50-plus-year-old to win the Mid-Amateur when he claiimed the 2013 championship.
The Mid-Amateur also has helped several players earn berths to the USA Walker Cup Team. Sigel, Smith, Jackson, Todd White, Danny Green, Zahringer and William Hoffer are among those selected to represent their country off the strength of performances in the Mid-Amateur.