BETHLEHEM, Penn. (Sept. 9, 2014) — Kevin Marsh, the 2005 champion, and co-medalists Scott Harvey (pictured) and Brad Nurski each posted two match-play victories Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinal round at the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, being contested at the par-71, 7,076-yard Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course.
Marsh, 41, of Henderson, Nev., defeated Nathan Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, in dramatic fashion with a 40-foot birdie from just off the green on the 20th hole in the morning’s Round of 32. Marsh, who also upended Smith in last year’s Round of 32, easily dispatched Andy Latowski, 35, of Plainsboro, N.J., 7 and 6, in the afternoon to reach the quarterfinals for the fourth time.
“To beat Nathan (Smith) two years in a row, it would be nice to convert it into a tournament win,” said Marsh, who registered a 2-and-1 victory in last year’s matchup. “My game is in a good spot and I am in a good spot mentally. I am not putting a lot of pressure on myself like I have done in the past.”
Harvey, 36, of Greensboro, N.C., is making his second quarterfinal appearance in five years. He handled Kevin Wolf, 36, of Lodi, Calif., in the Round of 16, 4 and 2, after earning a 1-up decision against Scott McNeil, 28, of Philadelphia, Pa., earlier in the day.
“I played a lot more solid (in the afternoon), hit a lot of fairways and a lot of really good shots,” said Harvey, who admittedly struggled with his ball-striking during his Round-of-32 match.
Nurski, 35, of St. Joseph, Mo., recorded a 2-and-1 victory over Michael Castleforte, 32, of Chicago, Ill., in his first match of the day before defeating Don Bell, 50, of Port Orange, Fla., 4 and 3, in the Round of 16. The No. 2 seed is playing in his second U.S. Mid-Amateur and first since 2008.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship continues with the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds 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.
Marsh and Smith tangled in a classic duel during second-round play. Marsh, who shot 3 under overall for the match, built a two-hole advantage with a birdie on No. 9 and par on No. 10. Smith, 36, of Pittsburgh, Pa., rallied on the final two holes with birdie putts of 20 and 4 feet, respectively.
Marsh appeared to be in trouble on the first extra hole when he found the left fairway bunker off the tee. However, he nestled a chip shot from the right greenside rough close to the hole for a conceded par to extend the match. All of which led to his winning stroke that hit the flagstick and fell to bottom of hole on the par-4 second.
“It was one of the best, most exciting matches I’ve ever played,” said Smith, who has been a member of three USA Walker Cup Teams. “It seems every time we play, we both kind of elevate our games. It should have ended that way.”
Marsh’s good play continued against Latowski when he won five consecutive holes, including an eagle at the 296-yard, par-4 eighth. With his opponent within 4 feet for birdie, Marsh chipped in from 20 yards short of the green.
“I just landed one right on the front of the green and it just rolled in like a putt,” he said.
Harvey, a real estate property manager who is competing in his seventh consecutive Mid-Amateur, had to work hard against McNeil in the Round of 32. He saved par on holes 16 and 17 to keep his lead. After pitching out to the fairway following a wayward tee shot, Harvey struck his approach to within 3 feet on No. 16. Playing from inside the hazard on the par-4 17th, his second shot hit a rock and caromed across the fairway into the right rough. But he erased those mistakes by sinking a 25-foot par putt to halve the hole.
In the Round of 16, he took control against Wolf with birdies on holes 6 and 8 and a par on No. 9. His sand-wedge approach on the par-5 sixth stopped within 18 inches and was conceded. Harvey drove the green at the par-4 eighth and two-putted from 30 feet up and over a ridge.
Nurski, who works for a railroad, birdied two of his first five holes in the morning but lost that lead in the middle of the match against Castleforte. He went back in front by winning holes 16 and 17 with pars. Nurski sailed a 3-wood off the 17th tee into the left hazard but came back to make a 15-foot par putt and seal the verdict.
He moved into the quarterfinals with a run of four birdies in seven holes against Bell. He constructed a commanding 3-up advantage on the drivable par-4 eighth when he chipped to a foot for a conceded birdie.
“I kept my driver in play most of the day,” he said. “You just have to stay away from mistakes out here. Mistakes will turn into bogeys real quick.”
Todd White, the No. 7 seed and a member of last year’s winning USA Walker Cup Team, will meet Nurski in the quarterfinals following a 2-and-1 victory over local favorite Matthew Mattare, who grew up at Saucon Valley, where his father is the general manager and director of golf. White, 46, of Spartanburg, S.C., won the first two holes with an 8-foot birdie putt and a par, and never trailed.
“It was definitely an away game,” said White, who reached the Mid-Amateur semifinals in 2012. “The crowd was very supportive of Matt. But it was so respectful. It was the way golf should be. They were not rooting against me. They were rooting for him.”
Patrick Christovich, 35, of New Orleans, La., exacted some revenge against Corby Segal, 43, of Santa Clarita, Calif., when he rallied in their Round-of-16 encounter to win in 19 holes. Christovich, who lost to Segal in last year’s first round, made a 20-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to force extra holes. He made a 6-foot birdie putt on the following hole, the par-5 first, and will make his first quarterfinal appearance.
Michael McCoy, the defending U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, and Bill Williamson, the No. 3 seed and last year’s runner-up, each lost in the Round of 32. McCoy, 51, of Des Moines, Iowa, was edged, 1 up. Williamson, 37, of Cincinnati, Ohio, could not recover from a slow start and lost to eventual quarterfinalist Tom Werkmeister, 4 and 3.
Quarterfinalists receive an exemption into next year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at John’s Island Club, in Vero Beach, Fla.
“[It] feels good knowing that I am exempt next year,” Harvey said. “It’s always an honor to play in a USGA event and having that in my back pocket is going to make dinner taste a little bit better tonight.”