From Near and Far, Match Winners Figure Out Old Course September 12, 2016 | Elverson, Pa. By Dave Shedloski

Michael McDermott has the competitive course record on the Old Course and that local knowledge has helped this week. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Local knowledge is often said by players to be an important factor in competitive golf. But it might play an even bigger role than usual in this week’s 36th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall.

“For the local guys it could mean a hole per match,” said Michael McDermott of Bryn Mawr, Pa. McDermott needed that one-hole edge, real or imagined, in his 1-up victory over Joseph Ida of Overland Park, Kan., in 20 holes in the Round of 64 at the Old Course.

McDermott, who was a finalist and semifinalist in the Philadelphia Amateur at Stonewall in 2000 and 2009, respectively, advanced to the Round of 32 for the third time in his eight appearances in this championship. He said the subtle nuances in the layout make the Old Course tricky, giving an edge to the players with more experience.

“Of course, it is still match play, so anything can happen,” said McDermott, 41, playing in his 16th USGA championship. “But there were several times today when I knew he [Ida] was in a tough spot, something you could only know from playing here dozens of times. And that helps with strategy, what shots you’re going to play.”

Along with McDermott, the other local products who qualified for the 64-man match-play field were Gregor Orlando of Philadelphia, John Brennan of Audubon, and Christopher Ault of Yardley. Only Brennan failed to advance to the next round.

Wouldn’t you know it, Orlando and Ault also won by the slimmest of margins. After seeing a 3-up lead through 13 holes vanish, Orlando won the 18th with a bogey 5 to eliminate Bradley Lane of Lawrence, Kan. Meanwhile, Ault rallied from 2 down with three to play by winning the last three holes for a 1-up decision over Kevin O’Connell of Raleigh, N.C.

With all three co-medalists winning their first-round matches, Monday seemed like a day for favorites, but that wasn’t always the case. Some familiar names were knocked out, underlining the unpredictability of match play.

Todd White, who won the 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship with Pittsburgh’s Nathan Smith, was dismissed by first-time Mid-Amateur competitor Carl Santos-Ocampo, 5 and 4. Todd Mitchell of Bloomington, Ind., the 2008 Mid-Am runner-up who reached the Round of 16 in last year’s U.S. Amateur, lost to Brian Quackenbush of Aiken, S.C., 3 and 2. And 2002 U.S. Am runner-up Robert Hamilton was a 1-up victim to Scott Strickland of Birmingham, Mich.

In Tuesday’s Round of 32, McDermott will be a part of one of the more intriguing match-ups, facing Joe Alfieri of Lutz, Fla. The two played each other in the Round of 64 in 2013, a showdown won by Alfieri. Another tilt worth keeping an eye on pits Brad Nurski of St. Joseph, Mo., against Jesse Daley of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Nurski was runner-up to Scott Harvey in 2014, while Daley was a quarterfinalist a year ago.

Meanwhile, the lone international player remaining in the field, Claudio Consul, the fashion consultant with a doctorate in engineering from Oxford University, won his first-round match, beating Christopher Thayer of Denver, Colo., 2 and 1. The native of Dusseldorf, Germany, who is No. 65 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™, took a look at the pairings Sunday night and noticed that he alone was flying the European flag in the championship. In a Ryder Cup year, he said, that was not insignificant.

“I saw all the American flags next to the names and thought that was interesting,” said Consul, 33, who only once before had played golf in the U.S., when he was a youngster. “Then I saw the one different one, which was for me. It made me laugh. It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the challenge the rest of the week.”

Consul meets Kevin Beavers of Seattle, Wash., in the Round of 32. The odds might be stacked against him to run the tables, but to date an international player has won each of this year’s USGA individual amateur championships.

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.

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