A Championship of Firsts as Mid-Am Descends on Stonewall September 6, 2016 | Elverson, Pa. By Brian DePasquale, USGA

Stonewall, site of this year's U.S. Mid-Amateur, will offer competitors a stern challenge in a rustic setting. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

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It is almost time for the 36th U.S. Mid-Amateur at Stonewall, located 50 miles northwest of Philadelphia, and this year’s edition of the championship will see a few notable firsts.

Stonewall’s Old and North Courses, designed by Tom Doak on more than 400 acres of a former dairy farm filled with Pennsylvania fieldstone walls and near the grounds of American Revolutionary War encampments, will play host to its first USGA championship. Typically in the Mid-Am, two courses are used for the 36 holes of stroke play and, once the field of 264 is cut to 64 for match play, only one of the courses is used the rest of the way.

But this year, in another first, the 36-hole final match will be conducted on both courses, with the morning round on the North, which opened in 2003, and the afternoon round on the Old (1993). And finally, a national audience will be able to view the U.S. Mid-Amateur for the first time when FS1 televises the final two days of the championship on Wednesday and Thursday, September 14 and 15.

Two players who know about firsts are defending U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Sammy Schmitz and reigning U.S. Senior Amateur winner Chip Lutz. Both players relied on previous experiences to become first-time USGA champions.

Lutz, a 61-year-old who grew up 20 miles from Stonewall in the city of Reading, Pa., was near but far to his goal when he reached the U.S. Senior Amateur semifinal round three times in a four-year period, from 2010-13. He once shot the equivalent of a 66 in a semifinal and lost. But he finally broke through last year when he defeated two USGA champions on his way to the title.

“I only could hope that one day I could finish this off and I had that good fortune,” said Lutz, an attorney for an insurance agency who is one of two players to have won the U.S., British and Canadian Senior Amateurs. “I have not received the kind of attention and accolades that I have from winning a USGA event.”

Lutz also claimed a love and affinity for Stonewall. “I couldn’t be more thrilled; I couldn’t be happier to have the exemption to play here.”

In last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur final, Schmitz fought off the memory of losing after being 3 up with three holes to play in a Minnesota state amateur match-play tournament. On the 33rd hole, he played a cut with his driver into the wind. He watched his ball land on a two-tiered green, and roll off the slope to record the second known ace on a par 4 in USGA amateur competition.

“I am not going to screw it up this time,” said Schmitz, who had a quick reaction but then tried to keep his emotions in check. “That was my mindset.”

The hole-in-one put him 3 up with three holes remaining, and he made a two-putt par on the next hole to clinch the 3-and-2 victory.

“It was a whirlwind of emotions,” said Schmitz, who works in the healthcare industry. “I was the most satisfied that a guy can be on the golf course.”

Chances are Schmitz and the rest of the mid-amateurs in the field will have their expectations met when they converge on Stonewall for the first time this weekend, ready to put their considerable championship experience to the test once again.

Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at bdepasquale@usga.org.

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