With U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying coming to a close, the field is now complete. And while there's much still unknown about how the event will play out Sept. 8-13 at Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest, Ill., one thing is sure about the 32nd playing of the championship: the field will be experienced and filled with talent.
Many of amateur golf's headline-making names either qualified or were exempt into championship proper, which means the competition will be stiff.
With each of the 264 golfers in the field set for an early-September trip to the midwest, here are 5 players to watch when the first round begins:
1.) Randy Lewis: The defending champion is an obvious choice for such a list and his memorable 2011 victory is the reason why. In 1996, Lewis lost his best chance to win a USGA event, falling in the final of the Mid-Am. The 15 years between that stunning loss and his victory last year were well worth the wait. Can Lewis make it two straight?
2.) Nathan Smith: A three-time winner of the Mid-Am championship and a semifinalists last year, Smith is very much a contender at Lake Forest. He was a member of the 2011 USA Walker Cup team and has a pair of Top 20s at the Azalea and Sunnehanna. It's very likely Smith will be in the mix during match play.
3.) Doug Hanzel: The Savannah resident has had a tremendous season already. It could get exponentially better with a 'W' at the U.S. Mid-Am. Hanzel finished as the low amateur at the U.S. Senior Open, has taken two Top 15s at the Oglethorpe Invitational and Birmingham National Invitational and won the Lupton Invitational. Momentum may be key for Hanzel, who recently reached match play at the U.S. Amateur, becoming the oldest (age 55) to reach that portion of the event since 1979.
4.) Kevin Marsh: The 2005 champion, Marsh has remained red-hot this summer. He won the California Amateur and the Carlton Woods Invitational and was 10th at the Crane Cup and 20th at the Lupton Invitational.
5.) Kenny Cook: Cook was the runner-up at the 2011 U.S. Mid-Am, falling to to Lewis 3-and-2 in the 36-hole finale. Since last year's Mid-Am, Cook has a runner-up finish at the Indiana Tournament of Champions and reached match play at the U.S. Amateur. He'll be hungry and playing well when the Mid-Am tees off in early September.
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