BETHLEHEM, Pa. (September 6, 2014) — Scott Harvey, 36, of Greensboro, N.C., shot a 6-under-par 65 Saturday to take the lead after the first day of stroke-play qualifying at the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, held at Saucon Valley Country Club. Harvey’s total was one stroke off the competitive course record at the par-71, 7,036-yard Old Course layout. The par-71, 7,068-yard Weyhill Course is also being used during stroke play.
Harvey, who advanced to the 2010 U.S. Mid-Amateur quarterfinals and was a co-medalist in stroke play, had seven birdies and an eagle on the par-4 17th to go with three bogeys. His 65 tied the fifth-lowest score in Mid-Amateur stroke-play history and was only bettered on the Old Course by Bruce Fleisher’s 7-under 64 in the first round of the 2000 U.S. Senior Open.
“I haven’t rolled the ball that well in the past couple of years but today they just started dropping left and right,” said Harvey, who flirted with the course record until a bunkered tee shot on his final hole led to a bogey. “To come out here and shoot that kind of round, it feels phenomenal.”
The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship consists of 36 holes of stroke play followed by six rounds of match play, with the championship scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Thursday, Sept. 11, starting at 7 a.m. EDT.
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.
Harvey, who has advanced to match play in all six of his previous Mid-Amateur appearances, birdied four of his opening six holes. He played his 180-yard approach shot to within 12 feet right of the hole on the par-4 second to set up one birdie and later drained a 40-foot putt for another on the par-3 fourth.
After making his first bogey of the morning round on No. 10, Harvey regrouped with back-to-back birdies on holes 12 and 13. He made putts of 25 and three feet, respectively, to get himself to 5-under on the round.
“I made a bomb on 12 and hit it close on 13 and that kind of picked my momentum back up,” said Harvey, who reached the Round of 32 in match play the last two years.
Harvey put an exclamation point on his good play when he sank his approach shot with a wedge for an eagle on the par-4 17th.
“I just took my driver and aimed down the right edge of the fairway,” he said. “I had 117 (yards) and I hit a 56-degree (wedge) and just knocked it right into the hole.”
Kenny Ebalo, 31, of Las Vegas, Nev., was the lone player to break par on the Saucon Valley’s Weyhill Course with a 1-under 70 and is among a group of five players who are five strokes off Harvey’s pace.
“Chipping (at Weyhill) is a bit more difficult just because of the firmness of the greens,” said Ebalo, who is playing in his second Mid-Amateur and hit 15 greens in regulation during the afternoon round. “I played back off the tee today. I made sure I was playing out of the fairway.”
Bill Williamson, 37, of Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of four players who shot 1-under par at the Old Course. Williamson, last year’s Mid-Amateur runner-up, made three birdies and two bogeys. Starting at the 10th hole, he ignited his round by making a 30-footer for birdie on No. 15 and a par-saving 10-foot putt on the following hole.
“I didn’t make very many mistakes,” he said. “I kept it in play. I didn’t make a lot of putts but I made the ones I was supposed to make.”
Don Bell, 50, of Port Orange, Fla., Matthew Salane, 32, of Columbia, S.C., and Chadd Slutzky, 37, of Deer Park, Ill., also broke par. Bell, a reinstated amateur who twice won the Norwegian Order of Merit as a professional, credited his ball-striking as the key to his round of 70. Salane, who works with attorneys as a litigation manager, shot 3-under 33 on his outward nine.
“I wasn’t expecting to come out and shoot 3-under on the first nine but it was a pleasant surprise,” he said. “Weyhill is going to play tougher. The thickness of the rough will be a challenge. It’s going to be even more of a premium to hit in the fairways and hit on the greens.”
Slutzky, who played in the afternoon and I scompeting in his third Mid-Amateur, made three birdies on his outward nine. He got up and down from a greenside bunker on the 602-yard, par-5 15th and delivered a lob wedge to within 4 feet on No. 17 for his third birdie before the turn.
Defending U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Michael McCoy, 51, of West Des Moines, Iowa, fashioned a 2-over-par 73 in the first round. McCoy, who was the low amateur at this year’s U.S. Senior Open, totaled four birdies but countered that production with two double bogeys.
B.W. Bruce, 43, of Marion, Ill., recorded a hole-on-one on the Weyhill Course’s 138-yard, par-3 sixth. Bruce, who used a 9-iron to record the 23rd ace in Mid-Amateur annals, finished with a 6-over 77.
But it is Harvey who has a large lead heading into Sunday’s second-round of stroke play.
“It’s a long, long week but it’s great to have a cushion,” he said. “These courses are tough and anything can happen. But then after stroke play it’s just like a reset button.”