If at first you don’t succeed, try, try (and try and try) again. It’s a lesson Todd Mitchell and Scott Harvey will be professing for the foreseeable future after it helped them claim a USGA championship on Wednesday.
In the first four editions of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, the pair of 40-year-olds—Mitchell a former minor league baseball player from Bloomington, Ill., and Harvey, the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur champ from Kernersville, N.C.—qualified for the nascent championship and were among the 32 two-man teams to advance to match play before being bounced out of the bracket. The farthest they’d ever gotten was the semifinals in the inaugural championship in 2014.
Prior disappointments didn’t keep them from coming back for a fifth time this past week at Bandon Dunes Resort, where finally things broke their way, winning the 18-hole championship match on the Old Macdonald course against East Carolina teammates Logan Shuping and Blake Taylor, 2 and 1.
“I don’t know that I can have a better feeling from a golf and competition side,” said Mitchell, who closest brush with winning a USGA championship previously was finishing runner-up at the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “I know [Scott] won the Mid-Am by himself. As close as Scott and I have become over the past probably six years, I’m elated that it happened like this.”
How solid was Mitchell and Harvey's play as they set up shop along Oregon’s scenic Pacific coast? Through the first 71 holes of stroke and match play, all the way into their quarterfinal tilt with Michael McCarty and Derek Ackerman, the eventual champs played without counting a bogey. They then proceeded to make just one more the rest of the week—on the 10th hole in the championship clash.
The rare stumble allowed Shuping and Taylor, both 21-year-olds who just finished their junior years with the Pirates, to tie the match. It remained knotted for the next two holes before a birdie on the 13th hole by the collegians got them a late (and rare) lead.
From there, the veterans of USGA championships didn’t shirk from the pressure, letting their experience shine. Birdies by Mitchell on the 14th (a nifty up-and-down after Shuping drove the green but three-putted for par), 15th (lagging a 62-foot eagle putt to two feet) and 16th (after hitting his blind approach with a 8-iron to five feet) turned the match from on 1 down to 2 up.
“I finally showed up,” Mitchell joked. “You know, something needed to happen, one way or the other, and I felt like there for a while, early on, things were kind of on our side, and then we lost a little bit of the momentum, you know.”
When the two teams tied the 17th hole with pars, Mitchell and Harvey had become the second mid-amateur duo (after maiden winners Nathan Smith and Todd White in 2014) to claim the championship. And they had done it by knocking of two of the three stroke-play co-medalists in match play (McCarty and Ackerman in the quarterfinals and Troy Vannucci and Vince Kwon in the semifinals on Wednesday morning).
It’s through their play in mid-amateur events over the years that Mitchell and Harvey, a property manager, became close friends. While living roughly 700 miles apart, the two talk daily and have made the Four-Ball an important part of their competitive calendar.
“There’s not enough team golf events, in my opinion,” Harvey said. “And like he said out there, this is the best event going currently, and it’s just more fun. Everything you’re doing is with someone. You’re sharing every part of it with someone, and it just feels that much better.”
“I can’t think of a better scenario than to do something like this with Scott,” Mitchell said. “There’s not a day that goes by unless, you know, he’s on vacation somewhere, that we don’t talk. And to share this with him means everything.”
Editor's Note — The original version of this story had Mitchell living in Bloomington, Ind., when he is actually living in Bloomington, Ill.