Mid-ams try to hang with the young guns
Jeff Wilson headlined a group of 11 mid-amateurs who advanced through stroke-play qualifying to compete during Wednesday's first round of match play at Chambers Bay, using patience and guile to confound Father Time and give hope to all those closer to getting an AARP card than their driver's license.
"As a general rule, we want to see the amateur game healthy and we want more mid-amateurs playing the game competitively," said Mike McCoy, 47, who made it to match play for the the third time before falling to pre-tournament favorite David Chung, the 20-year-old junior at Stanford. "That's what I think keeps a lot of us going. If the last few of us surrender, there won't be many left."
Former U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Tim Jackson is one of those not quite ready to wave the white flag. The 51-year-old from Tennessee qualified for the U.S. Amateur for the second straight year thanks to being the low am at the U.S. Senior Open. In 2009, he was in contention at the Senior Open for much of the tournament but says that when he became the oldest medalist in U.S. Amateur history later that summer (Wilson became the second oldest) was even more special.
"When I look back on it, I was more proud of that," Jackson said. "These kids are so good, and they hit it so far. To be able to still be competitive with them [means a lot]."
Scott Langley, the reigning NCAA champion from Illinois who shared low amateur honors at the U.S. Open in June, didn't take anything for granted when facing Jackson in Round 1, nor was he all that surprised that he needed 19 holes to get by his older opponent. "As soon as I saw Tim's name, I knew I was going to have to play well to beat him," Langley said. "I knew I was going to have to play well to beat him."
Indeed, Langley had to shoot the equivalent of three under with six birdies to hold off Jackson, who was one under par.
All square on the 17th hole, Jackson hit his pitching wedge over the green on the short par 3 and failed to get up and down for par, conceding a eight-footer to Langley to give the St. Louis area native 1-up lead going to the 18th. But Jackson wouldn't quit, hitting his second shot into a bunker on the par-4 closing hole then making a clutch up-and-down par save to extend the match.
On the first extra hole, Jackson's run came to an end when Langley made a 12-foot birdie while Jackson missed the green with his approach shot.
As the first round moved along, though, McCoy's and Jackson's fates were the same for most of the 25 and older set. After shooting a career-best 62 in stroke-play qualifying, Wilson couldn't get any putts to fall, losing his match to Amory Davis, 3 and 1.
All told only one managed to claim a victory Wednesday, 36-year-old Skip Berkmeyer beating Conrad Shindler, 2 up.
Mid-Am Results (age)
Jeff Wilson (47) loses to Amory Davis, 3 and 1
Mike McCoy (47) loses to David Chung, 3 and 2
Skip Berkmeyer (36) defeats Conrad Shindler, 2 up
Tim Jackson (51) loses to Scott Langley, 19 holes
Joe Saladino (30) loses to Eugene Wong, 19 holes
Robert Leopold (25) loses to Justin Thomas, 6 and 5
Todd White (42) loses to Alex Shi Yup Kim, 1 up
Brad Shaw (27) loses to Patrick Cantlay,
Scott Harvey (32) loses to Tyler Sheppard, 4 and 2
Harry Rudolph III (40) loses to Hudson Swafford, 19 holes
Michael Morrison (32) loses to Jed Dirksen, 6 and 5
Two marquee second round matches to keep an eye on Thursday morning.
Scott Langley vs. Patrick Reed, 8 a.m. PDT
Two of the most talented collegians in the country face off. Coin flip really on who to predict will come out on top.
Eugene Wong vs. Harris English, 8:20 a.m.
Same as above. Wong was the Jack Nicklaus POY in college golf last spring for Oregon while English is a first-team All-American candidate at Georgia.