BETHLEHEM, Pa. – For the second consecutive year, Kevin Marsh sent four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Nathan Smith home in the Round of 32.
Marsh, the 2005 Mid-Am champion and a semifinalist last year, birdied the 20th hole from just off the green from 35 feet for birdie on Tuesday at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course to advance to face Andy Latowski, of Plainsboro, N.J. It was the longest match of the championship so far.
It's a good thing the pin got in the way, said a relieved Marsh of his winning putt, which clanked of the flagstick and in after Smith's third shot from off the green at the par-4 second hole checked up 5 feet past the hole.
Smith, 36, of Pittsburgh, Pa., forced extra holes when he birdied the final two to erase Marsh's 2-up lead. He sank a 20-footer at the 17th and a 4-footer at the 18th after Marsh missed a 5-foot birdie try that would have ended the match.
Both men made par at the first extra hole, with Marsh getting up and down from off the green, before the match ended with Marsh's fourth birdie of the morning. Marsh, 41, of Henderson, Nev., defeated Smith, 2 and 1, last year at The Country Club of Birmingham (Ala.) and eventually lost to champion Michael McCoy, 4 and 3.
I love Nathan like a brother, said Marsh, a 1996 Pepperdine University graduate who briefly tried professional golf before regaining his amateur status in 2002. There is no one in amateur golf I have more respect for. So it's unfortunate that we have to meet so early again instead of in the final. I feel good about my game. I'm playing well, but now I have to guard against a letdown.
Marsh was the equivalent of 3 under through 20 holes – with the usual concessions for match play – while Smith was 1 under. Smith, a three-time USA Walker Cup competitor, was coming off a quarterfinal showing at last month’s U.S. Amateur at Atlanta Athletic Club.
"It was an ESPN Classic match," Smith said with a laugh despite the setback. "It was one of the best, most exciting matches I've ever played. [It] seems every time we play, we seem to both elevate our games."
Latowski Completes Major Comeback
Through six holes of his match, Andy Latowski was hoping not to embarrass himself. He lost four consecutive holes from No. 2 to fall 4 down to Trevor Sauntry. But Latowski, who resides in Plainsboro, N.J., and plays out of Philadelphia Cricket Club, finally started holing some putts. The 35-year-old played the equivalent of 5-under golf – with the usual match-play concessions – over the final 12 holes to post a come-from-behind 1-up victory.
At one point, he won four of five holes on the second nine, finally pulling ahead with a par on No. 16.
That was a great match, said Latowski, who is staying with Saucon Valley’s caddie master, Dave Fardon, this week. I just happened to make some birdies on the back [nine]. I just tried to stay in it and it worked out OK. But even on 18, we both ended up making birdie.
Latowski felt the momentum switch with his birdie on No. 12. Both birdied the 13th hole and then Latowski registered his third consecutive birdie on 14 to get to 1 down.
I was like, OK, now I am within shouting distance, said Latowski, who is competing in his fourth USGA championship and second Mid-Amateur.
Latowski certainly has enjoyed being close to home for this championship. He lives near Princeton, N.J., and had been up to play Saucon Valley a few times for casual rounds. But this is the first time he’s made match play in a USGA championship.
The two finalists from the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur both saw their run end in the Round of 32. Defending champion Michael McCoy, of Des Moines, Iowa, fell to Shane Sigsbee, of Las Vegas, Nev., 1 down, while runner-up Bill Williamson, of Cincinnati, Ohio, dropped a 4-and-3 decision to Tom Werkmeister, of Kentwood, Mich.
For McCoy, it marked the end of a remarkable year, which saw him play the Masters in April and earn low-amateur honors at the U.S. Senior Open. He will represent Iowa at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship at French Lick (Ind.) Resort with good friend Gene Elliott and J.D. Anderson. Elliott and McCoy will try to qualify for next year’s inaugural U.S. Four-Ball Championship on Monday in Stillwater, Minn.
It’s disappointing [to lose], but I actually played pretty well today, said McCoy. I hit a lot of good shots at him. I played really well. I didn’t feel like I threw it away. I just got outplayed today.
It’s been a fabulous year. I got to experience some things that most people don’t get a chance to experience. It was certainly my best year in golf and I’ve enjoyed it. It keeps inspiring you to keep trying and keep playing. I think there’s more good golf ahead of me.
Williamson, who was disappointed with his ball-striking, saw Werkmeister jump out to a quick 2-up lead after two holes and never look back.
I’ve got to get my ball-striking a little bit better, said Williamson. Last year, I hit it better. In 2012, I hit it better. I just didn’t hit it in the fairway enough [this week]. Once you get to this level, everyone can play.
[The past year] has been great. The USGA runs a great event and I’ve enjoyed myself. I’ve got two more [Mid-Amateur] exemptions, so I’ll be back.
Williamson’s USGA season isn’t over just yet. At the end of the month, he’ll represent Ohio at the USGA Men’s State Team Championship with Will Grimmer, a 17-year-old high school senior who qualified for this year’s U.S. Open, and fellow mid-amateur Jeff Scohy.
Florida Vacation Lands Mid-Am Appearance For Tagle
As the co-owner of Patagonia Golf Management in Argentina, golf runs deep in German Tagle’s blood. But competing in this week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur wasn’t exactly expected.
He was planning a trip to Florida and realized a Mid-Am qualifier was scheduled at BallenIsles Country Club in West Palm Beach, about 15 minutes away from his vacation spot.
I practiced for a couple weeks before I came and I played well, he said. I went to a playoff and lost, but I got in as an alternate just last Sunday. So, I had to book a flight and start practicing again.
While most people think soccer and maybe even basketball when it comes to sports in Argentina, the nation is arguably South America’s top golf-playing country. In fact, Tagle’s company represents the most iconic Argentine golfer – 2007 U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera.
Tagle, who hails from Cordoba, is from the same town as Cabrera and 2008 U.S. Senior Open champion Eduardo Romero. Tagle dropped his Round-of-32 match, 2 and 1, to Ned Zachar, but left Saucon Valley C.C. with great memories from his first USGA championship.
I knew the USGA plays their tournaments on great courses, but I didn’t know the U.S. Mid-Am would be like this, said Tangle, who replaced the injured Paul Simson in the field. The course is unbelievable and the staff treats everyone like a pro. It was a great experience.
Long And Short Of It
Co-medalist Scott Harvey and 2012 quarterfinalist Corby Segal took different routes to the Round of 16. Harvey, of Greensboro, N.C., posted a pair of gut-wrenching 1-up victories, while Segal, of Santa Clarita, Calif., played 26 holes in two wins, including a 7-and-6 decision on Monday over Clark Mitzner.
On Tuesday, Segal dispatched Kenny Ebalo, whose daytime job is serving as three-time USGA champion Ryan Moore’s manager on the PGA Tour, 5 and 4. Segal also travels the PGA Tour circuit as Briny Baird’s caddie.
Harvey defeated No. 64-seed Kevin Grabeman on Monday and eliminated local favorite Scott McNeil on Tuesday. McNeil resides in Philadelphia, Pa., an hour south of Saucon Valley.
Gutted it out, said Harvey, who wasn’t pleased with his ball-striking. Sometimes, golf is like that. ...You just have to learn to fight it out.
Brudzinski Returns After Unexpected Off-Day
Not scheduled to tee off until 11 a.m. in Monday’s Round of 64 at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, T.J. Brudzinski was surprised when his phone rang at 7 a.m.
The USGA was on the other line, notifying him that he had won his match by default after his scheduled opponent, Erik Ehlert, informed the USGA he had signed an incorrect scorecard after his final round of stroke play on Sunday.
Brudzinski, 53, of Columbus, Ohio, was surprised, but sympathetic toward Ehlert.
I had just talked to him the night before. We were staying in the same hotel, said Brudzinski. He’s a great guy and I was looking forward to playing him. I give him a lot of credit for what he did. That’s a stand-up move.
Brudzinski spent some of his free time at Saucon Valley to watch friends from Ohio compete. At night, he went to see the movie The November Man.
On Tuesday, Brudzinski received no such break in a 4-and-3 second-round loss to 2013 USA Walker Cup competitor Todd White.
I didn’t hit any balls yesterday, said Brudzinski. After this display, maybe I should have.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites. David Shefter is a senior staff writer with the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Joey Flyntz is an associate writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.