Round of 32: 5 Things to Watch
October 11, 2017 | Atlanta, Ga.
By David Shefter, USGA
The Round of 64 on Tuesday at the 37th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship produced several unexpected results with three past champions, including reigning titlist Stewart Hagestad, being eliminated. Four-time champ Nathan Smith and 2014 winner Scott Harvey also were ousted at Capital City Club’s Crabapple Course.
On Wednesday, two more rounds of match play will reduce the field to eight players, all of whom will be exempt into next year’s championship at Charlotte (N.C.) Country Club. It starts with 16 Round-of-32 matches being contested over the Tom Fazio layout. Here are five things worth keeping an eye on:
Since its inception in 1981, no foreign-born player has won the Mid-Amateur, although two international golfers have reached the championship match. Wayne Raath (South Africa) lost to Greg Puga in the 1999 final and Garrett Rank (Canada) fell to Nathan Smith in the 2012 title match.
Two international golfers remain alive in this year’s competition: Devaughn Robinson, 29, of The Bahamas and Dave Lang, 30, of Canada. Robinson was on the precipice of elimination on Tuesday before rallying from 3 down with five to play to defeat Jon Lindstrom in 19 holes, making birdies on 18 and 19. Lang had a less-stressful match, defeating Michael Brown, 4 and 3.
Three players 50 and over, including one who is 60, are still left in the draw. Randal Lewis, the 2011 champion from Alma, Mich., is the elder statesman of the group. Lewis also happens to be the Mid-Amateur’s oldest champion, having claimed the title at 54. Lewis takes on Lang in the Round of 32 on Wednesday morning.
Gene Elliott, 55, of West Des Moines, Iowa, has one of the strongest resumes among those players without a USGA championship to his name. He has competed in more than 25 USGA events and was the medalist in the 1999 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. He also won the 1998 Porter Cup and has claimed every major title in Iowa, including his state open twice. Elliott drew Michael Muehr, 45, of Potomac Falls, Va., in the Round of 32. Muehr finished 121st on the PGA Tour money list in 2001, one of three seasons he competed on that circuit before regaining his amateur status. Both Elliott and Muehr are past champions of the prestigious Crump Cup at Pine Valley.
A semifinalist last year, Dan Sullivan, of Pasadena, Calif., turned 50 in April. He would love to add a gold medal to the bronze medal he earned in 2016 at Stonewall after falling to Scott Harvey in 19 holes.
Survive and Advance
Eight golfers who were involved in the massive 25-for-16 playoff on Tuesday morning managed to post Round-of-64 victories later that day. Ryan Sloane, 38, of Campbell, Calif., holed a 60-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole – the par-4 17th at Capital City Club – and then knocked out 2015 semifinalist Brad Wilder. Joseph Ida chipped in for birdie on that same hole and carried the good vibes into his 1-up victory over No. 15 seed Jeronimo Esteve.
Then there’s Dusty Drenth, of Davenport, Iowa. The 29-year-old began his week by acing the par-4 16th hole at Atlanta National Golf Club, the stroke play co-host venue, during a practice round. Then he survived Tuesday’s playoff and proceeded to knock off defending champion Stewart Hagestad. He will look to continue his good fortune against Sullivan in the Round of 32.
No Easy Feat
Five of the 32 opening-round matches went beyond the 18th hole on Tuesday, including a pair that required three extra holes. Not only that, 11 other matches were decided on the 18th green, meaning half of the Round-of-64 matchups went to the wire.
Brad Nurski, the 2014 runner-up, and playoff survivor John Hayes each needed 21 holes to vanquish their opponents. Nurski won holes 17 and 18 just to force extra holes and then he and his opponent, Sam Wempe, birdied the par-4 19th hole. Wempe’s three-putt bogey on the 215-yard, par-3 third hole sealed the outcome.
Last Two Standing
The week began with 14 Georgia residents in the field, which tied for third in terms of most representation by state. California led the way with 29, followed by Texas (23), while New York and Florida joined Georgia with 14. The host state now has just two remaining players: Matt Robbins from Cumming and Mark Harrell from Lookout Mountain. Robbins, 44, graduated from nearby Milton High, so he’s quite familiar with the surroundings this week. Harrell, 32, has never advanced past the Round of 32 in five previous USGA amateur championship appearances. HarrellThree Georgians have won the Mid-Amateur, including Danny Yates (1992), the general chairman of this 37th U.S. Mid-Amateur. Jim Stuart (1990 and 1991) and Dave Womack (who beat fellow Georgian Ryan Hybl in the 2006 final) are the other two from the Peach State to claim the championship. Robbins faces PGA Tour caddie Corby Segal in the Round of 32, while Harrell meets Chad Wilfong.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org