Kevin Marsh, 32, of Las Vegas, Nev., built a large lead after the first 18 holes and cruised to a 10-and-9 victory at the 25th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which concluded Thursday at the par-72, 7,037-yard Honors Course.
In the scheduled 36-hole final against Carlton Forrester, 29, of Birmingham, Ala., Marsh got off to a hot start, building a 3-up lead after seven holes. Forrester had a chance to get one back at the par-3 eighth when Marsh pushed his tee shot way right into the weeds and was forced to play a provisional, which he hit to the fringe short of the putting surface.
Forrester’s tee shot found the collection area right of the green. But his pitch shot rolled past the flagstick and just off the green above the left greenside bunker. From there, he pitched past the flagstick again, 20 feet from the hole and proceeded to two-putt for a double-bogey 5. Marsh’s bump-and-run shot stopped a foot from the hole for a five.
“That was more of a gift than anything,” said Marsh. “I hit a horrible shot and I expected to lose the hole.”
Instead of trimming the lead to 2 down, Forrester halved the hole and then made a couple of mistakes on the ensuing two holes. His approach from the fairway at the par-4 ninth found the water hazard left of the green, leading to a bogey and a conceded birdie for Marsh. At the par-4 10th, both players hit brilliant approaches to the green. Marsh holed his 4-footer, but Forrester lipped out a 3-footer to go 5 down.
After the two traded pars on the 11th and 12th holes and birdies on the 13th, the momentum again swung the way of Marsh, who converted a 28-foot birdie putt at the par-3 14th and then watched Forrester miss his birdie attempt from 5 feet.
“In the 100 times I have played The Honors Course, I’ve never seen anyone make it from below that ridge,” said Forrester. “That really swung the tempo. I got behind the eight-ball there and really started pressing.”
Marsh went on to win the next five holes and finished the morning round with a 10-up lead. For the morning 18, Marsh shot the equivalent of 5-under-par 67 with the usual concessions for match play, while Forrester struggled to an 81.
“He played great all day and my hat’s off to him,” said Forrester. “I just couldn’t put pressure on him. It’s easier to play well when you’re five up. I tried to finish strong and make a match of it but unfortunately for me, he played well as well.”
In the afternoon session, Forrester managed to get one back when he chipped in for eagle on the 20th hole, the par-4 second, from the rough just left of the green. But Marsh would get it back two holes later when Forrester three-putted. Forrester again cut the deficit on the 24th hole when Marsh was unable to get up-and-down from the rough above the green and Forrester holed his 3-footer for birdie.
On the par-4 ninth hole, the 27th of the match, Forrester missed a 5-foot par putt that would have halved the hole and extended the match. Marsh then made his 4-footer for par to win the match and the championship.
Marsh was thrilled with his excellent play throughout the day, particularly considering he shot a 6-over 78 at The Honors Course in his first round of stroke-play qualifying.
“It’s always very rewarding to play a great round when it counts,” said Marsh. “I was frustrated after the first round of stroke play. But each round, I just kept playing better and better.”
This is the first USGA title for Marsh, a reinstated amateur who made it to the quarterfinals of the 2004 Mid-Amateur. During his run to the title, he eliminated two past U.S. Mid-Amateur winners – 1997 champion Kenny Bakst and defending champion Austin Eaton III.
“I can’t tell you how honored I am to be a USGA champion,” said Marsh. “Playing with Austin was a real eye opener for me. I can only pray that I’m half the champion he is.”
The U.S. Mid-Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.