Round 1 of Stroke Play: 5 Storylines
October 7, 2017 | Atlanta, Ga.
By David Shefter, USGA
The 37th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship begins Saturday morning at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course and stroke play co-host Atlanta National Golf Club, with 264 competitors hoping to have their name etched on the Robert T. Jones Jr. Memorial Trophy. Golfers will play 18 holes on each course during the weekend, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play, to be contested at Capital City Club, beginning on Monday.
This year, the champion not only will receive a gold medal, a 10-year exemption into the championship and custody of the trophy for the ensuing year, he will also earn an exemption into the 118th U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
Here are five storylines to look out for heading into Round 1 of stroke play:
Playing for Las Vegas
Had his wife not been six months pregnant, Shane Sigsbee likely would have attended last Sunday’s Route 91 Harvest Festival across from the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Sigsbee, 32, of Las Vegas, and his wife, Rachael, are huge country music fans, and so are many of his friends.
“I knew approximately 10 people at the concert,” said Sigsbee, “and fortunately all of them made it out safely, but their individual stories are terrifying.”
“The town has really pulled together during such a difficult time,” said Sigsbee, who is competing in his second U.S. Mid-Amateur after reaching the Round of 16 in 2014, and is one of two Las Vegas-area residents in the field, along with Craig Erickson, of Henderson.
Added Erickson: “Watching the events unfold through the telephoto lens of the media was surreal because I am very familiar with the area. I am just thankful to have the opportunity to play [in the Mid-Amateur] again, and thankful that none of my loved ones were hurt Sunday.”
As Sigsbee walked around the rustic surroundings of Capital City Club and Atlanta National in preparation for the championship, his thoughts turned to the people in his hometown.
“I know the events of the past week will be on my mind … and if making a deep run in this event gives my friends back home something different to follow online, then that’s some added motivation,” said Sigsbee.
Two golfers in the field are quite familiar with Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course. Atlanta residents Brendon Williams, 40, and Matthew Swan, 30, are members who qualified at Capital City’s Brookhaven Course. Swan, a former player at the University of Alabama, will be competing in his 10th USGA championship. He advanced to the Round of 16 in the 2005 and 2006 U.S. Amateurs at Merion Golf Club and Hazeltine National Golf Club, respectively. Williams, who will be competing in his first USGA championship, has recorded a pair of holes-in-one on the Crabapple Course. He plays regularly at the club with reigning NFL MVP and fellow club member Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons.
When it comes to stroke play co-host Atlanta National, no members are in the field, but Tyler Gruca, 25, grew up playing the course while competing for Milton High School. He helped lead Milton to a third-place finish in the 2005 Class 5A Georgia state championship before continuing his golf career at Georgia State University.
Defending the Crown
Stewart Hagestad, 26, of Newport Beach, Calif., has enjoyed a dream-like year since winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur title last September at Stonewall in a 37-hole thriller over Scott Harvey. The University of Southern California graduate became the first reigning Mid-Amateur champion to make the cut in the Masters since 1988. He was the low amateur at Augusta National Golf Club, and followed that performance by qualifying for the U.S. Open and earning a spot on the victorious USA Walker Cup Team last month.
Now he’ll look to become just the third competitor in Mid-Amateur history to successfully defend his title. While five players have won multiple championships since the competition was established in 1981, only Jim Stuart (1990 and 1991) and four-time champion Nathan Smith (2009 and 2010) have claimed consecutive titles. Three-time champion Jay Sigel, Tim Jackson and 2017 victorious USA Walker Cup captain John “Spider” Miller are the other three players to win multiple Mid-Amateurs.
Returning the Favor
2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Lauren Greenlief was supposed to competing in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur this week at Quail Creek Country Club in Naples, Fla., but Hurricane Irma forced that championship to be relocated to Champions Golf Club in Houston, where it will be contested Nov. 11-16.. Instead of playing this week, Greenlief will be carrying the bag for boyfriend Jeff Long, who qualified for his first U.S. Mid-Amateur. Usually it’s Long who caddies for Greenlief, as he did in last year’s Women’s Mid-Amateur and the 2016 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, where Greenlief and partner Alexandra Austin advanced to the semifinals at Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, Fla. He was also on her bag in August when Greenlief competed in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at San Diego Country Club.
Long, 30, of Ashburn, Va., works as a full-time caddie at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., when he doesn’t loop for the 27-year-old Greenlief.
Repping the Bahamas
Devaughn Robinson has already elevated The Bahamas’ place in the golf landscape by competing in the first three Latin America Amateur Championships, an international competition created by the USGA, The R&A and Augusta National Golf Club. Last week, Robinson added to his portfolio by winning the Houston City Amateur Championship. For Robinson, 29, it was his first significant win since his college days at Texas Southern University, where he earned All-Southwestern Athletic Conference honors. It also was the ideal tune-up for his first U.S. Mid-Amateur appearance this week. Robinson, the reigning Bahamian national champion, also competed in the 2014 U.S. Amateur Public Links, where he missed the cut.
“For the past few weeks and months, I’ve been extremely dedicated to improving to where I need to be around the golf course and the way I actually think about my ability and skills,” said Robinson to the Tribune242, a Bahamian newspaper. “When I practice and achieve my dreams, I think I’m doing it firstly for my wife (Grand Bahamian native Fabricia Robinson), my family and my country. That’s what motivates me the most.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.