Day One of the Mid-Am is in the Books
The Big Show has finally arrived. Two hundred and sixty-four of the world’s best amateur golfers age 25 and over have converged at our club in pursuit of a National Championship and a spot in the 2016 Masters, and Act I, Scene 1 of this drama in two parts is now in the books.
The opening shots were struck at 7:30 this morning in the first of two rounds of stroke-play qualifying. When, approximately 12 hours later, the last putts were holed, one thing was abundantly clear: Our North and West courses are a comprehensive test of championship golf.
The playing conditions were ideal—sunny skies with just a light breeze—and, thanks to the fine work of Golf Course Director Greg Pheneger and his staff, the competitors were treated to 36 immaculate fairways and greens. Nonetheless, only seven players bettered 70 and the average 18-hole score on both courses was several strokes over par.
Two players share the lead with a score of 68, both on the North Course. Keith Unikel of Potomac, Maryland, played the back nine in 31 strokes and his total was equaled by Bryan Smith from Jay, Vermont, whose front nine included four 3’s in the first six holes. One stroke behind them is a group of five players led by defending Mid-Amateur Champion, Scott Harvey of Greensboro, NC. Harvey got off to a fast start with birdies at the first two holes of the West Course and also eagled the 17th en route to a 69 that was matched by four players, Marc Dull of Lakeland, Florida, playing the West, and Neil Trimm of Madison, Wisconsin, Reid Hartley of Hayden Lake, Idaho, and Andrew Price of Lake Forest, Illinois, on the North Course.
A total of 18 players bettered par, but most of the field struggled with the challenges posed by architects Pete Dye and Tom Fazio. As was widely expected, scores on the par-71 North Course averaged higher than on the par-72 West (77.34 vs. 76.88). The toughest holes on the North were the 18th and the 3rd, a pair of punishing par fours that yielded just four birdies each, while the 14th, a watery par-five that strikes terror in the hearts of most JI members, was easy pickings for the Mid-Am field as many got home in two, notching 35 birdies and an eagle, the most of any hole on either course.
On the West, it should come as no surprise that five of the seven toughest holes were on the front nine, with the killer stretch coming at holes six through nine which together played nearly two strokes over par, while the hardest hole on the course was the 12th, its elusive fairway and elevated green combining to tax the field for 14 double-bogeys and two dreaded “others.”
In contrast to the U.S. Amateur, where a huge percentage of the field is composed of collegiate players, the Mid-Amateur field is a more eclectic group, populated by salesmen and tradesmen, financiers and firemen, teachers and preachers, ditch diggers and dentists. Forty-three states and nine nations (including the Republic of Moldova) are represented at John’s Island. The oldest competitor is 64-year-old Paul Simson, a two-time U.S. Senior Amateur Champion playing in his 58th USGA championship while the youngest, fittingly enough, is 25-year-old Nathan Young.
Several of the competitors are former golf professionals who’ve regained their amateur status, but there are also former (or current) pros from baseball, hockey, tennis, and bowling. One player caddied for Kevin Streelman, another played college golf with John Daly and another is the brother of Phil Mickelson.
Just as diverse—and diverting—are some of the names in this year’s field. Indeed it’s a bit of a shame the USGA failed to see the potential pairings they were afforded. Consider: the presidential three-ball of Harding/Fillmore/ Wilson; the bucolic Marsh/Brooke/Fields, the golf-centric Driver/Bunker/Greene; the precocious Savage/Young/Tallent, and the cautionary Steed/May/Bolt.
But there is still hope. After tomorrow, 200 players will head home and the low 64 players will proceed to the match play stage where we can only pray for one of these confrontations: Snow-White, Chestnut-Brown, Kelly-Greene, Swan-Storck, Bull-Woolf, Dull-Wilder, and Jeremiah-Johnson.
Click here to read David Shefter from the USGA's side bar on Daniel Ragsdale.
Click here to view today's full scoring.
For full photos from today, click here.
John's Island Club
3 John's Island Drive, Vero Beach, Fl 32963
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