Five Storylines to Follow at Outset of Championship
October 2, 2015 | Vero Beach, Fla.
By David Shefter, USGA
As the 35th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship commences at John’s Island Club with the 36-hole stroke-play portion of the competition on the North and West courses, here are five storylines worth following among the field of 264 competitors:
Five for Five?: Four-time champion Nathan Smith, 37, of Pittsburgh, Pa., will be looking to join elite company by becoming just the fifth player to win the same USGA championship five times. The list includes Bob Jones (five U.S. Amateurs), Glenna Collett Vare (six U.S. Women’s Amateurs), JoAnne Gunderson Carner (five U.S. Women’s Amateurs) and Carolyn Cudone, who claimed five consecutive U.S. Senior Women’s Amateurs from 1968-72.
Earlier this year, Smith won the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship with 2013 USA Walker Cup teammate Todd White at The Olympic Club.
Redemption: Only one player, George Zahringer, has lost in the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship match and come back the next year to claim the title. At age 49, Zahringer rebounded from his 2001 defeat to Tim Jackson at San Joaquin Country Club in Fresno, Calif., to defeat longtime rival Jerry Courville Jr. the following year at Zahringer’s home course, The Stanwich Club in Greenwich, Conn.
Brad Nurski, 36, of St. Joseph, Mo., is hoping to surpass his performance last fall at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., when he suffered a 6-and-5 loss to fellow co-medalist Scott Harvey. The long-hitting left-hander advanced to the Round of 32 this summer in the U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields (Ill.) Country Club, one of two mid-amateurs to win an opening-round match (Todd Mitchell).
Defending the Crown: Only two players in U.S. Mid-Amateur history have successfully defended their titles: Jim Stuart (1990-91) and Nathan Smith (2009-10). Scott Harvey, 37, of Greensboro, N.C., will look to join that list. It has been a strong year for the property manager, having won the South American Amateur in February and reached the quarterfinals of the Japan Amateur. He capped it off by being selected to the USA Walker Cup Team, where he went 1-2 in the seven-point loss to Great Britain and Ireland last month at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England.
Coach’s Decision: Several golf coaches are in the field this week, most notably Arizona State University’s Tim Mickelson, the younger brother of five-time major champion Phil Mickelson. Mickelson, 38, has enjoyed success in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, advancing to the quarterfinals in 2007 at Bandon Dunes and 2010 at Atlantic Golf Club. Charlie Blanchard, 50, of Warwick, R.I., is the head coach at Bryant University and helped Rhode Island to a tie for second in the 2010 USGA Men’s State Team Championship. And Justin Tereshko, 25, of Jamestown, N.C., is the head coach at Guilford College. He advanced to the Round of 32 in last year’s U.S. Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club.
Caddie ranks: There are plenty of professional loopers in the field, led by 2000 champion Greg Puga, 44, of Long Beach, Calif. Puga was caddieing at Bel-Air Country Club at the time of his victory. He has since worked on the LPGA Tour for fellow Southern Californians Lizette Salas and Ryan O’Toole. He turned pro shortly after his Mid-Amateur triumph and regained his amateur status last year.
Corby Segal, 44, of Santa Clarita, Calif., a quarterfinalist in 2012, has worked on the PGA Tour for Briny Baird, Brandon Hagy and Brandt Jobe, and this fall is working a couple of events for Champions Tour player Woody Austin. He fell in the Round of 16 of last year’s Mid-Amateur in 19 holes to Patrick Christovich and took eventual champion Nathan Smith to the final hole in a quarterfinal match in 2012.
Domingo Jojola, 28, of Burlingame, Calif., caddied for world No. 2 Lydia Ko in her victory at the 2014 Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic at Lake Merced Golf Club, where Jojola was a longtime Junior Merit member. Another Burlingame resident, Alexsei Koika, 39, who became the first golfer from Moldova to qualify for a USGA championship (2012 U.S. Amateur), caddies at San Francisco Golf Club when he’s not doing contract work.
Marc Dull, 29, of Lakeland, Fla., qualified for his first U.S. Mid-Amateur at the Streamsong (Fla.) Resort, where he is employed as a caddie. The resort will host next year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Dull’s grandfather, Dexter Daniels Sr., is a two-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion. And Michael Christensen, 38, of Minneapolis, Minn., caddied for his ex-Duke University teammate Kevin Streelman on the PGA Tour for five years. He now works in sales development.
Northern Californians David Moore, 26, of Monterey, and Nick Moore, 33, of Seaside, who are not related, caddie at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Cypress Point Club, respectively.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.