Past Champion Cards 69 At The Bridge September 24, 2010 By USGA Staff

Past champion Kevin Marsh got off to a strong start with a 3-under-par 69 at The Bridge on Saturday. (USGA Museum)

Bridgehampton, N.Y. – Past champion Kevin Marsh shot a 3-under-par 69 at The Bridge Saturday to hold lead through the midway point of the wind-swept first day of stroke play at the 2010 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

Marsh, 37, of Henderson, Nev., who won the title in 2005, registered five birdies and two bogeys. With a 7:50 a.m. starting time, he faced difficult wind conditions for most of the round.

I would have taken even par when I teed off this morning. Marsh said.The first hole was brutal, and I hit a great third shot for a tap-in birdie on the first hole, which was kind of nice, and then I made a couple of good putts. I was a little squirrely on the back nine but I held it together.

In addition to his good play, he employed the inside knowledge of his caddie to score well.

Fortunately, my caddie is a Bridge caddie, so that helped a lot, Marsh added. He helped me keep it in the right spots on the greens and stay off trouble off the tee.

Marsh was one of just three players in the morning wave of starting times who broke par. He did so with a more aggressive approach to the stroke-play portion of the championship.

The last few years I felt like I get a little bit too protective, thinking I have to shoot a 74 or 75, and you just can’t play golf like that. Marsh said. You have to play your game and hopefully you play well. Tomorrow, it’ll be nice to have a little cushion, and just be able to go play. Sometimes when you shoot 75 or 76, you start thinking about the numbers. Now, I can just go play. We’ll see what the scores are like. It would be nice to be medalist.

Two strokes behind Marsh at 1-under 71 were Chris Hall, 52, of Kennesaw, Ga., at The Bridge and Los Angeles County deputy sheriff Dick Engel, 44, of Quartz Valley, Calif., with the best round of the morning groups at Atlantic Golf Club.

It was more weather than anything, said Engel of his score. I’m used to playing in the wind where I live in the Antelope Valley (50 miles north of Los Angeles). The wind part of it didn’t bother me that much.

Defending champion Nathan Smith, 32, of Pittsburgh, Pa., and R.J. Nakashian, 43, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., each posted even-par 72 at Atlantic Golf Club.

I needed a good score over here and I feel like I got it, said Smith, the 2003 and 2009 champion, who recorded four birdies and four bogeys. At least it might hold me in there to have a chance to make match play.

The wind caught Smith, who started at 7:10 a.m., by surprise.

I thought it was windy the last two days, he said. I didn’t realize that it would be blowing 25 miles an hour already at 5:45 this morning when we got here. It was a shock. It was put on the turtleneck and hit balls in the dark trying to get ready.

However, his experience provided the steadiness necessary to post a good score in the conditions.

It all evened out, Smith said. I hit some really good shots. I guessed wrong a couple of times. Every club, you had to guess and figure where the wind was. It was either 30 miles an hour downwind or 30 miles an hour in your face. 

Sean Knapp, 48, of Oakmont, Pa., and Robbe Trout, 25, of Fort Worth, Texas, shot even-par 72 at The Bridge. Knapp, who was a teammate of Smith’s when Pennsylvania won the 2009 USGA Men’s State Team Championship, was a semifinalist in 2008.

The remaining 132 players in the field had afternoon tee times on Saturday. After a second day of stroke play Sunday, the U.S. Mid-Amateur field will be reduced to 64 players for match play, which will be played at Atlantic Golf Club. The first round of match play is scheduled for Monday, the second and third rounds will be played Tuesday, the quarterfinal and semifinal matches are on Wednesday, and the 36-hole championship final will be played Thursday.

The U.S. Mid- Amateur, which is open to golfers age 25 and older, is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.