BETHLEHEM, Pa. (September 8, 2014) — Scott Harvey, 36, of Greensboro, N.C., had to work hard for a 1-up victory while Brad Nurski, 35, of St. Joseph, Mo., easily won, 6 and 4, as each co-medalist from stroke-play qualifying advanced Monday in the first round of match play at the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, held at the par-71, 7,076-yard Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course.
Harvey reached the Round of 32 for the seventh consecutive year by holding off Kevin Grabeman, 28, of Columbus, Ohio. Grabeman survived a 16-for-3 playoff earlier in the day to make the match-play bracket.
“It was one of those matches where sometimes you have to gut it out,” said Harvey, a 2010 Mid-Amateur quarterfinalist. “Kevin drives it real straight, he’s in every hole and the pressure is always on you.”
Nurski, who is playing in his second U.S. Mid-Amateur and first since 2008, had a clean card with five birdies and nine pars in defeating Brad Valois, 27, of Warwick, R.I. He closed out Valois by winning the last four holes, including birdies on Nos. 11 and 14.
“I kept the ball in the fairway right off the bat,” said Nurski, who works for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Anytime you can hit the ball right down the middle on the first hole, it kind of calms the nerves a little and eases you into everything.”
The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship continues with the second and third rounds of match play on Tuesday. The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be played on Wednesday. The championship concludes 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 was the co-medalist for the second time in five years, grabbed a one-hole advantage when he drove the green on the reachable 299-yard, par-3 eighth and two-putted from 40 feet for a birdie. He won the par-3 11th when he played conservatively to the middle of the green and Grabeman missed the putting surface with his tee shot, leading to a bogey.
After losing the next hole by missing a short par putt, Harvey would later use his putter and driver to halve holes 17 and 18 to stay ahead and win the match. His approach shot on the par-4 17th bounced through the green, but he regrouped by making a 7-foot par putt. Harvey’s tee shot on the drivable 308-yard, par-4 18th found the back fringe of the green, leading to a par.
“I have been here before, so who knows what is going to happen,” said Harvey, who is competing in his 14th USGA championship. “My comfort level is a little more than most – not all, but most.”
Bill Williamson, the No. 3 seed, won three consecutive holes on the outward nine with one birdie and two pars en route to a 5-and-3 triumph over Zach Atkinson, 32, of Colleyville, Texas. Williamson, 37, of Cincinnati, Ohio, wrapped up the victory with a birdie on the par-5 15th by hitting a 52-degree wedge to within 4 feet.
“I have a sense of urgency to get more up and more up until I win a match,” said Williamson, who was last year’s Mid-Amateur runner-up. “You never want to get complacent, because once you get complacent they are going to take holes from you and you’re going to lose the match.”
Nathan Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, and Kevin Marsh, who won in 2005, each made short work of their first-round opponents and will square off against each other in the Round of 32 for the second consecutive year.
Smith, 36, of Pittsburgh, Pa., defeated Brett Williams, 33, of Baldwin, Md., 7 and 5, by winning six of the last seven holes in the match. Smith, who has been a member of three USA Walker Cup Teams, accounted for three birdies and 10 pars over 13 holes. He took a 2-up lead on the par-4 third when his 126-yard approach shot from the rough caught the slope and fed back to the hole to set up his first birdie.
“It was a solid round in general with some quality shots, a lot of greens in regulation and some good putts,” said Smith, who advanced out of the first round for the ninth time in 10 Mid-Amateur appearances.
Marsh, 41, of Henderson, Nev., cruised to a 6-and-4 win over Dan Arison, 27, of Fairlawn, Ohio. His tee shot missed the green to the right on the drivable par-4 eighth hole, but he lifted a flop shot to within 10 feet for a birdie and a 2-up advantage. Meanwhile, Arison drove into the front greenside bunker and missed a 5-footer for birdie.
“I knocked mine [putt] in and he missed, so that was a big swing hole,” said Marsh, who reached last year’s Mid-Amateur semifinals.
Marsh won the first three holes on the inward nine to build a commanding lead against Arison, who was playing in his first USGA championship. He sank an 8-footer for par on No. 10 and later made a 40-footer for birdie, a putt he was trying to lag, on No. 12. All of which brought about his rematch with Smith.
“You feel like it should be a semifinal or final match,” said Marsh, who edged Smith, 2 and 1, in last year’s second round. “He’s not one of these guys that you are going to win against with scrappy golf.”
Michael McCoy, who won last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, rallied on the inward nine to register a 1-up win over Todd Burgan, 45, of Knoxville, Tenn. The 51-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa, birdied No. 11 to square the match and fashioned a momentum-building par save at No. 12. He went in front with par at the difficult 489-yard 16th by hitting his third shot to within 3 feet. McCoy was one of five players over age 50 to advance to the next round.
Matthew Mattare, who grew up at Saucon Valley where his father is the general manager and director of golf, used some late heroics to post a 1-up victory in the first round. Mattare, 28, of Jersey City, N.J., sank a par-saving 12-foot putt to halve No. 17 and struck an 83-yard lob wedge to within 18 inches en route birdie on the finishing hole. Mattare reached the Mid-Amateur quarterfinals in 2012.
Patrick Christovich, 36, of New Orleans, La., turned in the highlight of the day when he his tee shot reached the green on the par-4 eighth to set up a short eagle putt. He went on to win his opening-round match, 2 and 1.