Austin Eaton beaten, but only after ‘amazing week’

Austin Eaton’s Cinderella coach finally was turned back into a pumpkin when he lost his quarterfinal match at this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

Still, for Eaton, 33, of nearby Stamford, the events before he lost 3 and 1 to George Ahringer at The Stanwich Club were memorable.

Consider that Eaton bogeyed his final five holes and then lost in a playoff to become first alternate in his qualifier at Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, N.Y. He was still on the outside looking in Sept. 17 before the championship proper. On Sept. 18, he got a call from the USGA informing him he was in because Phil Waterman of New York withdrew after having an appendicitis attack.

Eaton made the most of the opportunity. He qualified for match play (149) and then won his opening match over former Porter Cup champion Gene Elliott of West Des Moines, Iowa, 3 and 2. He then beat James Scorse of Rochester, N.Y., 1 up, and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 5-and-4 victory over Trip Kuehne of Dallas.

“This has been an amazing week,” said Eaton, who was playing in his first Mid-Amateur. “I’m sure when I get to the Met (Metropolitan Golf Association) Amateur next year, or any other match-play event, I know I won’t back down.”

Playoff time: Before match play, a 12-man playoff took place to determine the final seven spots in the field of 64.

Beginning at the par-4 10th hole, Trey Lewis gained the 58th spot with a birdie while Michael Deo, Steve Smyers, Chris Lange and Kenneth Kellaney were knocked out. That left seven players for the final six spots.

The next hole, the par-4 18th, James Scorse, Paul Simson, Paul Schlacter, Scott Hardy, Tim Hogarth and David Brown advanced.

The odd man out was Dan Falls of Goshen, Md., who made double bogey after taking a one-shot penalty. Falls was just off the edge of the green in three when one of his opponents requested he mark his ball as it was in his line. Falls did, but when he picked up his ball he started to clean it with his fingers and then put it in his pocket. It was a breach of Rule 21 since he was off the green he was not allowed to clean his ball.

Short shots: Serving as marshalls for the second and third round were 45 firefighters and policemen from New York. They also were invited to a players dinner in the evening in which Stanwich member and 1999 U.S. Senior Open champion Dave Eichelberger and former Stanwich member and tennis Hall-of-Famer Ivan Lendl spoke. . . . Included in the 64-player match play field were 21 former professionals who regained their amateur status. Four advanced to the Sweet 16: Terrance Miskell, John Pate, Jeff Wilson and Paul Simson, with Wilson getting to the semifinals.

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