Valois takes medalist honors at U.S. Mid-Am

The 18th hole at Conway Farms Golf Club.

The 18th hole at Conway Farms Golf Club.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Brad Valois shot a tournament best 3-under 68 Sunday at Conway Farms Golf Club and captured stroke play qualifying medalist honors in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

Valois, 25, of Warwick, R.I., finished with a 1-under 141 total after his 2-over 73 on Saturday at the Knollwood Club, the second course used in the qualifying segment of the event for players 25 years and older.

He finished a stroke better than Todd White, 44, of Hilton Head Island, S.C., who followed his opening 70 at Conway Farms with a 1-over 72 at Knollwood.

Another shot back was Matthew Mattare, who shared the lead after an opening-round 69 at Knollwood and added a 3-over 73 at Conway Farms for a 1-over 143 total. Seven players were tied at 2-over 144.

After two days of stroke play, the field was cut to the low 64 scorers for the match play bracket which will all take place at Conway Farms. Nine players tied for the 61st position and were involved in a playoff for the final four spots.

Gaining those four spots were John Engler, a U.S. Mid-Am semifinalist last year, Daniel Day, Jon Lindstrom and Kevin Wolf.

Valois, a retirement and benefit specialist with New York Life and Nyliac Securities, started his round on the 10th hole and carded birdies at Nos. 12, 14 and 18 to make the turn in 3-under 33. After a bogey at No. 3 and a three-putt bogey from 20 feet at the fifth, he came back with birdies at the sixth and his final hole, No. 9.

“The sixth hole was a great hole for me because I hit a great 3-iron shot to about 6 feet and made that putt (for birdie),” said Valois, a left-hander and 2010 graduate at the University of Rhode Island. “That gave me a little momentum push.

“Yesterday’s round was a bit of a struggle,” said the three-time Rhode Island Junior and Amateur champion and one-time New England Amateur winner. “I made a couple of putts yesterday to keep my head in the game and I really had no expectations when I came out here today.”

While this is his first U.S. Mid-Amateur, Valois, whose nickname is Bear, has played in three U.S. Amateurs, including last month at Cherry Hills Country Club where he made match play, but lost in the first round.

Like Valois, White also advanced to match play at this year’s U.S. Amateur, where he lost in the second round.

White, a history teacher at Hilton Head Island High School, had two birdies and three bogeys in his round at Knollwood.

“This is a difficult golf course and the winds got tricky out there making it really tough,” said White, who earlier this year had top-10 finishes at the Azalea and Northeast Amateurs. “It got to a point where I pretty much told myself to not do anything stupid and make sure I seeded well for match play.”

Among others advancing into match play were three-time U.S. Mid-Am champion Nathan Smith (147), two-time winner Tim Jackson (147) and former champ Kevin Marsh (148), who overcame an opening 78 with a solid 70. Also, Mason Casper, the 30-year old grandson of two-time U.S. Open champion Billy Casper, moved on at 147, and 2011 U.S. Mid-Am runner-up Kenny Cook at 149.

Among the older set landing spots in match play were 2011 British Senior Amateur and Canadian Senior Amateur winner Chip Lutz (149), 2010 U.S. Senior Amateur champ Paul Simson, 2012 low U.S. Senior Open amateur Doug Hanzel and 2012 second low Senior Open amateur Sean Knapp.

Following the overnight heavy rain, two of the four first-round leaders struggled to match their opening success. Michael Castleforte followed his opening 69 with an 82 at Knollwood for a 9-over 151, while John Rudolph ended at 13-over 155 after adding an 86 at Knollwood to his 69 in a round that included 11 bogeys and a pair of double bogeys.

Also done with tournament play are defending champion Randal Lewis (152), former U.S. Mid-Am runner-up Bryan Norton (153), Robert Leopold (153), who made it to the Sweet 16 at the last two U.S. Amateurs, former champions Austin Eaton III (154) and Dave Womack (161), Tom Strange (154; oldest son of two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange), and Gary Nicklaus (157), son of legendary Jack Nicklaus.

• • •

TOUGH VENUE: Usually, the “companion” course -- the layout not used for match play -- at the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur, the two USGA events that utilize a second qualifying venue, plays easier. Not so this week, primarily because of the thick rough and rain soaked fairways.

This year’s second course, was the Knollwood Club to go with Conway Farms Golf Club, the primary course, both playing to par-71. Knollwood had a first-day scoring average of 77. 5 and was five-tenths higher than Conway Farms. For the two qualifying rounds, were just about equal -- 77.51 for Conway and 77.5 for Knollwood.

Only two players -- Matthew Mattare and John Ehrgott -- bettered par on Saturday at Knollwood with 69s, and John Patterson had the lone sub-par Sunday round with a 70.

• • •

BOWING OUT: George Zahringer, 59, of New York, N.Y., and playing in his final year of his 10-year exemption as the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur winner, withdrew from the competition despite posting a 3-over 145 score that would have qualified hi for match play. However, Zahringer schedule his USGA Senior Amateur qualifier for Sept. 11 at Preakness Hills Country Club in Wayne, N.J.

After completing his round Sunday, he informed Bill McCarthy, the director of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, of his decision and headed to the airport to catch a flight home and get ready for his Tuesday qualifier.

• • •

HE'S AN ACE: Scott Congdon, 25, of Foxboro, Mass., scored the first hole-in-one of his career in Tuesday second round, acing the 168-yard, 11th hole at Conway Farms using a 7-iron. However, Congdon shot 76 and his 9-over 151 total was not good enough to advance to match play.

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