Mid-Amateur quarterfinalist is a cancer survivor September 20, 2011 By Andrew Blair

Cancer survivor Michael Muehr, who played three seasons on the PGA Tour before regaining his amateur status, has advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)

Northern Virginian Michael Muehr of Potomac Falls, Va., admits he entered this week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship with hopes of trying to claim the event.

Muehr, a reinstated amateur, got one step closer to his goal on Tuesday, posting a pair of victories in the second and third rounds of match play to advance to Wednesday morning’s quarterfinals at the national championship being conducted at Shadow Hawk Golf Club.

In the round of eight, he’ll face John Engler of Augusta, Ga., the second low qualifier for match play, at 8 a.m. CDT.

Muehr registered a hard-fought 2-and-1 victory over T.J. Shuart of Coral Springs, Fla., in the round of 32. After lunch, Muehr notched a 3-and-2 triumph over Atlanta’s Kris Mikkelsen.

One hole up through 11 holes in the round of 16, Muehr scored a par-win at the par-4 12th and drove the putting surface at the 264-yard par-4 13th hole to bump his advantage to 3 up. His opponent responded by making a 10-footer for birdie at the par-5 14th. But Muehr answered right back, claiming the par-4 15th with a steady par; there, Mikkelsen blasted his third shot from the greenside bunker to 7 feet and missed the par chance for a would-be halve. Muehr closed the match a hole later with a par.

A former PGA Tour player who regained his amateur status in the summer of 2007, Muehr’s title aspirations are within sight – and his weeklong goal remains unchanged.

Muehr has plenty of battle-tested experience on his side, on and off the golf course. After spending four years on the Nationwide Tour, Muehr graduated to the PGA Tour, where he played from 2001-03.

I’m playing to win it. I’d like to win it, said Muehr. I feel like as much golf as I’ve played in my lifetime – I’ve played as much as anybody in this event. I’d be happy with winning it; I don’t know if I’d be happy with anything less than that.

By now, Muehr can safely set high expectations for himself. He was diagnosed with Melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, at the end of 2002. Muehr endured one more year on Tour then basically stopped playing golf in 2003. 

I had cancer so I got out of competitive golf and just started working, he said.

After receiving treatments for the disease, Muehr started playing again on a semi-regular basis again in 2007 and reintroduced himself to competitive golf at the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur conducted at Milwaukee Country Club. In the round of 32, he fell to eventual champion Steve Wilson of Ocean Springs, Miss.  

The cancer is now in remission – a transforming victory in itself – and now Muehr is ready to pursue victory on the national championship stage. The eighth low qualifier for match play, Muehr’s optimism is admittedly being stoked by his sound ball-striking and consistent play throughout the week, an asset in collecting three victories in match play. As he is surely aware and been reminded time and time again over the years dating back to his days on Tour -- anything is possible.

I’m hitting it really well. I’m not missing very many greens, said Muehr, who plays at Trump National Golf Club Washington, D.C. I just need a couple of putts. I’m hitting it great; as good as I’ve hit it in a long time. I just need to get the ball to go in. I played very conservative and let the [opponent] try and beat me rather than giving it away.

And don’t think Muehr doesn’t know that he is three wins away from bringing home the Mid-Amateur title. Richmond’s Vinny Giles was the last Virginian to win a USGA championship, claiming the 2009 USGA Senior Amateur Championship at Beverly Country Club in Chicago.

These days, Muehr has much to look forward to and can barely contain his enthusiasm for the game and the moments to shine that USGA championships provide. When it comes to handling the uncertainties of match play, as with overcoming cancer, Muehr can tell you all about surviving and advancing.

It would be fun to get one of these back in Virginia, wouldn’t it? Muehr said.

Andrew Blair is the communications director for the Virginia State Golf Association whose stories have previously appeared on USGA websites. E-mail him at ablair@vsga.org.