Berkmeyer last mid-am at Chambers Bay
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – For whatever the reasons, the odds are against a mid-amateur winning the U.S. Amateur Championship.
History, at least over the past quarter century, proves that point.
U.S. Amateur (Round of 64)
Sixty-four golfers tackled tough Chambers Bay in the first round of match play at the U.S. Amateur.
I am covering my 24th consecutive U.S. Amateur this week at Chambers Bay and during this stretch, which began with Billy Mayfair winning in 1986, only two mid-ams have claimed the prestigious Havemeyer Trophy.
The first was Mitch Voges in 1991 after he beat Manny Zerman, 7 and 6, in the title match at The Honors Course near Chattanooga, Tenn.
The last over-25 player to do it was John Harris back in 1993 when he defeated Danny Ellis, 5 and 4, in the final at Champions Golf Club just outside of Houston.
Since then, the winner’s circle has been filled with college - and, in some cases, pre-college - champions.
In fact, as the talent pool among the younger set continues to grow and strengthen, the mid-amateur’s mere presence at this championship proper seems to be getting smaller and smaller.
Still, early on this time around, the mid-ams have made their presence known: 11 qualified for the 64-player match play field, certainly an improvement over recent years.
Equally as impressive – of those 11, five were older than 40, four were in their 30s, and two in their 20s.
Also, consider that for the second year in a row, a mid-am was the event’s qualifying medalist. Jeff Wilson, 47, of Fairfield, Calif., who opened with a 10-under 62 and the second-lowest 18-hole qualifying score in U.S. Am history, took the honor, the fifth time in his career he has been a medalist in a USGA competition. The previous year Tim Jackson of Germantown, Tenn., became the oldest medalist, topping the field at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
Jackson again made it to match play along with Wilson, and they were joined by Mike McCoy (47), Robert Leopold (25), Skip Berkmeyer (36), Joe Saladino (30), Todd White (42), Brad Shaw (27), Michael Morrison (32), Scott Harvey (32) and Harry Rudolph (40).
“The caliber of play is still very high, and it wouldn’t surprise me if a mid-am wins the tournament this week,” said McCoy, who lost his opening match, 3 and 2, to David Chung, this year’s Porter Cup and Western Amateur champion. “There’s fewer of us (that compete regularly), but the ones still out here are pretty good. They still can play.
“I think we all enjoy playing against the young guys, even if they blast it past us all day,” McCoy said. “Still, it keeps us going. If the last few of us surrender, there won’t be any (mid-ams) left.”
Take 5: U.S. Am. (Rd. of 32 preview)
Now the bad news.
After round one of match play, there’s only one left here at Chambers Bay, thus making the hope of ending the 16-year mid-am drought appear very dim.
That would be Berkmeyer, of St. Louis, who defeated Conrad Shindler from Texas A&M, 2-up. The other 10 are heading home.
Berkmeyer was 2-up after five, but Shindler won Nos. 7 and 8. Berkmeyer won 9, but again Shindler squared the match at 12.
At the par-3 17th, Berkmeyer hit a 9-iron to 6 feet and made the putt for birdie and the lead, and at 18 nailed a 4-iron from 225 yards to 8 feet for a close-out birdie.
“That was probably the best 4-iron shot I ever hit,” said Berkmeyer, who has had success at the U.S. Mid-Am, winning stroke-play medal twice and advancing to the Round of 16 in 2007. “It was a great day. We both played well, and for me, it was great way to finish.
This is the 21st USGA event in which Berkmeyer has qualified and his eighth U.S. Amateur. His best previous effort came in 2008, when he won his first match but lost in the second round.
“Now, I have to come out tomorrow and see if I can finally make it to Thursday afternoon,” he said.
Wilson never could get things going as he lost, 3 and 1, to Amory Davis, the last surviving qualifier from a 16-for-6 playoff in the morning. Wilson was also qualifying medalist at the 2000 U.S. Am, where he again lost in the opening round. Prior to Wednesday, the last medalist to lose in the first round was Chris Munsdorf in 2001 at East Lake in Atlanta, falling to Greg Earnhardt, 1-up.
Wilson won the second hole to go 1-up, but it would be his only lead of the day. Davis, a senior at Virginia, won the third to square things and then won Nos. 7, 9 and 10 to go 3-up. Wilson cut it to 1-up after 13 holes, but Davis closed things out with pars at 15 and 17, both par 3s.
Jackson’s hope of becoming the oldest U.S. Amateur champion ended early when the two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur winner lost to Scott Langley, the reigning NCAA champ from Illinois, on the 19th hole.
White was 1-up with two holes to play, but lost 17 and 18 to pars as Alex Shi Yup Kim scored a 1-up victory.
“I thought I hit a great shot on (par-3) 17,” White said. “The ball took a funky bounce, and I ended up making bogey. Then at 18, nothing seemed to go right and I made another bogey.
“But I’m not complaining. Overall, I’ve had a very good summer,” said White, who won this year’s Palmetto Amateur and his third South Carolina State Match Play Championship.
Rudolph was 3-down with four holes to play, but won No. 15 with a par after Hudson Swafford missed a 2-footer, won 17 with a birdie and won 18 with a bogey after Swafford four-putted. But the run ended at the 19th hole, the par-5, No. 1, when Swafford made birdie to Rudolph’s bogey.
Among the other mid-ams: Saladino went 19 holes before falling to Eugene Wong, this past season’s Jack Nicklaus Award winner as Division I Player of the Year; Harvey dropped a 4-and-2 decision against Tyler Sheppard; Morrison was derailed by Jed Dirksen, 6 and 5; Leopold also had a rough go of it, losing 6 and 5 to Justin Thomas, runner-up at this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur; and Shaw fell to Patrick Cantlay, 2 and 1.
A day that started out so promising in the mid-amateur camp has now become a one-man show. It’s Berkmeyer vs. The Baby Faces.
Good luck, Skip! This is without a doubt a clear case of Mission: Impossible.