U.S. Mid-Amateur Round 1: Five Things to Know
September 21, 2018 | Charlotte, N.C.
By David Shefter, USGA
Charlotte is the host city for the 38th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, but for the past week, another name has garnered most of the attention in the Tar Heel State: Florence.
Fortunately for Charlotte Country Club and stroke play co-host Carolina Golf Club, the Category 1 hurricane that slammed into the state on Sept. 14 and dropped more than 30 inches of rain didn’t do much damage to the championship layout. The courses received less than 8 inches of water from the tropical storm, but there was no flooding.
That means the focus will be on the 264 players competing over the next six days for the right to hoist the Robert T. Jones Memorial Trophy. Here are five things to know on the eve of the first round of stroke play:
Defending the Crown
Since its inception in 1981, five players have won multiple U.S. Mid-Amateur titles, but only two – Jim Stuart and Nathan Smith – have successfully defended. Stuart achieved the feat in 1989-1990, while Smith, a four-time champion, went back to back in 2009 and 2010.
Matt Parziale, of Brockton, Mass., has an opportunity to join this elite fraternity. It’s been a whirlwind year for the firefighter who became the first player to be fully exempt into the U.S. Open for being the Mid-Amateur champion and shared low-amateur honors at Shinnecock Hills. Last month, he got married and competed in the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links.
While two 50-year-olds have won the U.S. Mid-Amateur (Michael McCoy and Randal Lewis), no Mid-Amateur champion has ever claimed the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. Jeff Wilson, 55, of Fairfield, Calif., can produce a rare double this week after his impressive performance at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club three weeks ago when he became the first medalist in 31 years to win the Senior Amateur. Wilson, who operates a Toyota dealership, has made several deep runs in the Mid-Amateur, reaching the semifinals in 2001 and 2002. He’s also advanced to the quarterfinals on three other occasions. Earlier this summer, Wilson earned low-amateur honors in the U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor.
Nineteen players who reside in North Carolina have qualified for this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, but two Charlotte residents are very familiar with the venues. In fact, Steve Woodard and Brett Boner happen to be brothers-in-law and members at Carolina Golf Club. Woodard, however, grew up playing at Charlotte Country Club, where his parents are still members.
But neither player qualified for the championship in North Carolina. Boner traveled to Cedarbrook Country Club in Blue Bell, Pa., where he was the medalist, while Woodard went to The Foundry Golf Club in Powhatan, Va. The two won this year’s Anderson Memorial at Winged Foot Golf Club, where Woodard competed in the 2006 U.S. Open and the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball (with Boner).
“It’s been a huge goal all year to get into the U.S. Mid-Amateur because it’s in my hometown,” Boner told the Golf Association of Philadelphia when he qualified on Aug. 20. “I’ve worked hard at my game when I’ve had time. I’m very thrilled. I want to see how far I can get. If I play my game, I feel like I can go a long way. It’ll be fun.”
Benjamin Hayes had multiple scholarship offers to play golf at the Division I level, but he decided to follow the path of his great grandfather, his three brothers and grandfather to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., where he not only captained the golf team as a senior but eschewed playing professionally for the opportunity to become a pilot. His grandfather also captained the Navy golf team in 1947.
Given his choice of aircraft to pilot after graduating flight school, Hayes chose the P-8A Poseidon due to its location in Jacksonville, Fla., where Hayes could also play golf year-round. After more than 1,300 hours of flight time and two deployments, Hayes, 30, took a role as a weapons and tactics instructor for the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance. The role change has permitted Hayes more practice time and the U.S. Mid-Amateur will be his first USGA championship.
Interestingly enough, this year’s field also includes Daniel Hurley, the brother of former Navy standout and current PGA Tour player Billy Hurley III. Billy Hurley represented the USA in the 2005 Walker Cup Match and won the 2016 Quicken Loans National at Congressional Country Club in Maryland.
Good Vibes … and Vows
Vance Embry certainly has plenty of good memories of Charlotte Country Club, but it’s not from any tournaments or golf-related achievements. The Dalton, Ga., resident had his wedding reception at the club on April 16, 2005. His wife, Kelly, is a native of Charlotte, and her grandparents were longtime members at Charlotte Country Club. Her uncle and cousin are current members of the club, so the 39-year-old should have plenty of local support when he competes in his first USGA championship.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.