Kevin Marsh, of Henderson, Nev., claimed the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur with a convincing 10-and-9 victory over Carlton Forrester in the 36-hole final match at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. The commercial real estate developer was appearing in just his second Mid-Amateur, following a quarterfinal showing in 2004. A former standout at Pepperdine University, Marsh played professionally for three years, primarily on the Hooters Tour, before deciding to return to the amateur game. He currently runs his own event (Crane Cup) at Floridian in Palm City, Fla., and he was recently hired by Discovery Land to develop a high-end private facility in Las Vegas.
How did winning the Mid-Amateur change your life?
Marsh: It’s hard to say how it changed my life because I don’t know how it would have been different. Obviously, it’s been 10 years, which is amazing. I certainly wasn’t planning on playing as much as I have in the last 9½ or 10 years. It was only the second Mid-Am I had played in. The year before, I had lost in the quarterfinals, which got me in the following year. Then you win it and the next thing you know, you are just playing in everything. But it’s been a good problem to have. I have also sacrificed a bit of my earning years in my 30s and you think, “You know what, I’ve got to start earning some money.”
You gave up your professional golf dreams and became a reinstated amateur in 2002. It appears that was a good decision.
Marsh: I certainly wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m glad I never made it as a pro. I probably would never have been a great pro. It’s been fun. Getting to go to Pine Valley every year [for the Crump Cup] and Seminole every year [for the Coleman] and I now host a tournament at the Floridian (Crane Cup), which is a really special week. I get to set my schedule to play in the Mid-Am every year now. I’ve still got this year and one more year [being exempt] for making the semis in 2014.
Beating someone 10 and 9 in the championship match is impressive. What do remember about the match?
Marsh: It was nice. It was the back nine in the morning. I went crazy. I shot 6 under.
And you nearly shot yourself out of the championship the first day of qualifying.
Marsh: It was one of those perfect storms. I struggled the first day at The Honors Course. I shot 78 and then I went over to Black Creek (companion qualifying venue) and shot 64. And I just started playing a little bit better and better as the week went on. I got through a couple of really tough matches. I got really lucky against [defending champion] Austin [Eaton III] in the Round of 16. We both didn’t play particularly well, and I was lucky to get through.
Did your experience of playing high-level competition keep you focused after that first-round 78?
Marsh: I knew there were going to be some low scores at the other course. And I was only maybe three or four shots off of making the [match-play] cut [after the first round]. The Honors Course is such a hard course in stroke play. There are just so many doubles out there. I figured I needed to shoot 1 or 2 under [at Black Creek] and I would be fine. I got off to a great start and I think I shot 4 or 5 under on the front nine. Then I got through that tough stretch between 10 and 14, and made a couple of more birdies coming in.
Winning the Mid-Amateur brought you a Masters invitation. Can you describe that experience?
Marsh: The thing that is amazing is that I had so many friends and family go and we still talk about it. I still get Facebook posts, emails and text messages about what a great week that was for everybody, not just how cool it was for me. That’s been the best part.
Who were you paired with that week?
Marsh: I played with Padraig Harrington and Craig Stadler in the tournament. Padraig was unbelievable. Then I got to play a practice round with Tiger [Woods] and [Mark] O’Meara on Wednesday. I played with Ben Crenshaw on Tuesday. It was just awesome.
Is it surreal now that you did that?
Marsh: I remember Austin telling me this the following year at the 2006 Mid-Amateur. The hard part now is you know what you are playing for. Before it was just this little fantasy and you didn’t know what it was. And now, you know and you want it even more. I’ve been a semifinalist three times: 2007 at Bandon Dunes and then 2013 and 2014. Fortunately, the last two I haven’t really thought about it, and it’s not the reason why I lost. I lost to [eventual champion] Mike [McCoy] in 2013 and Scott played great [against me] the next year. What are you going to do? I’ve had some great runs. I think I have played 11 Mid-Amateurs now and I’ve only missed match play once, which was 2008 at Milwaukee [Country Club].
Given that the U.S. Amateur hasn’t seen a mid-amateur champion since 1993, it seems like this championship is giving guys like yourself a tremendous forum to showcase your skills.
Marsh: It’s pretty much impossible [to win the U.S. Amateur] now. Obviously, Nathan [Smith] had a great run [to the quarterfinals] in 2014. The problem is getting in. To go through a 36-hole qualifier – typically in one day – against 60 to 80 college players when you are playing for two or three spots is pretty tough. I’ve been in it six times and I’ve made the Round of 16 twice. If we can get into match play, we can beat any of these guys in an 18-hole match. It’s getting into the championship and then getting into match play. You have to play two very solid rounds of golf to get into match play.
Does it help mid-amateurs that the USGA is putting two mid-amateurs on the USA Walker Cup Team?
Marsh: It really does. The unfortunate thing is it’s just a tough scheduling thing. If you’ve got a family, if you’ve got a job to basically go play seven or eight tournaments out of a 12-week stretch in the summer is very, very hard. I’ve heard rumors of a mid-am ranking. It would be nice if certain mid-am tournaments got a little more weight like the Crump, Coleman and my tournament. I’m getting 47 out of the top 50 [mid-amateurs]. We’ve got a really good field [for the Crane Cup].