Tim Jackson, Nathan Smith, Todd White and Garrett Rank have reached the semifinals at the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, being conducted at the par-71, 7,078-yard Conway Farms Golf Club.
Jackson, 53, of Germantown, Tenn., advanced on Wednesday morning with a 3-and-2 victory over Dennis Bull, of Norwalk, Iowa. Smith, 34, of Pittsburgh, eliminated Corby Segal, of Santa Clarita, Calif, 1 up.
White, 44, of Spartanburg, S.C., took a 2-and-1 win over Casey Boyns, of Monterey, Calif. Rank, 25, of Canada, defeated Matthew Mattare, of New York, by a 3-and-2 margin.
The 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, for players ages 25 and older, consists of 36 holes of stroke play. The low 64 scorers advanced to match play, which features six rounds, including a 36-hole final scheduled for Thursday, beginning at 7 a.m. CDT.
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.
Jackson faced little pressure from Bull, who dropped the par-3 second with a bogey to give Jackson a 1-up lead. Jackson’s birdie at the ensuing par-4 third stretched the lead to two and he was able to extend it to as much as 4 up before coasting to victory.
"I was very comfortable today," said Jackson, the 1994 and 2001 Mid-Amateur champion. "It was just one of those days where the club feels right in your hand."
Jackson’s semifinal opponent on Wednesday afternoon, Smith, is another multiple Mid-Amateur champion, having taken the title in 2003, 2009 and 2010. But this will be the first time the two past USA Walker Cup participants have played each other in a match-play competition.
Smith trailed for much of his quarterfinal match with Segal. He gained his first lead with a birdie at the par-5 14th, but Segal’s birdie-3 at the 15th brought the match back to all square.
The match remained deadlocked to the par-5 18th. Segal deftly placed his approach within 10 feet of the hole. Smith’s approach made a nifty, 180-degree spin around Segal’s ball and came to rest 5 feet past.
"I heard everybody go crazy and I saw the ball going everywhere," said Smith, who has reached the Mid-Amateur semis for a fourth consecutive year. "But then I realized that I'm outside his line, so I was probably going to give him the line."
Smith calmly stepped up and sank the 15-foot birdie. When Segal’s attempt to extend the match came up short, Smith knew he was facing yet another tough battle. He was extended to 19 holes on Tuesday afternoon against close friend Sean Knapp in the Round of 16..
"I'll have my hands full again and just try to hang with him," said Smith of his afternoon opponent.
White opened with a birdie at the par-4 first to quickly set the tone again Boyns. The high school history teacher at Hilton Head Island High maintained a lead for the duration of the match, though Boyns never quite let White feel comfortable.
"I got up early and managed to keep the ball in play and put it on the greens," said White, whose best previous USGA result was a round-of-16 appearance at the 2003 U.S. Amateur at Oakmont (Pa.) C.C. "I've got to give credit to my opponent - he fought back. He really played well late in the match."
Rank started the championship as the youngest person in the 264-competitor field, but finds himself as one of the last four men standing. After steamrolling through his opening three matches, Rank faced a tough adversary in Mattare, also competing in his first Mid-Amateur.
While Rank never trailed in the match, Mattare kept things close. Rank’s birdie at the first was countered by a long Mattare birdie at the second. Rank carried a lead until the par-3 12th, when his bogey squared the match.
But Rank was able to turn things around at the par-5, 535-yard 14th. Rank’s 3-wood approach found the middle of the green, while Mattare hit a wedge to 5 feet. Mattare missed the short birdie putt after Rank promptly dropped his birdie from 7 feet to regain the lead, this time for good.
"That was huge," said Rank, a member of the Canadian National Team and a referee in the Ontario Hockey League. "I'd lost 11 and 12 to go all square, so that got the momentum back in my favor."
Rank has yet to play the 17th and 18th holes in match play, something he hopes will not come back to haunt him.
"I hope they don't have the tees up on 18 because I'm not sure if it's driver or not," said Rank with a laugh. "Hopefully I don't have to get there."
Christina Lance is a coordinator of championship communications for the USGA. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.