FLAGSTAFF, Arizona (September 9, 2006) -- The USGA Mid Amateur begins it's 26th playing on Saturday at the Canyon and Meadow courses of the Forest Highlands Golf Club. The scenic courses -- both of which architect Tom Weiskopf had a hand in designing -- are two hours north of Phoenix in the 6000-plus foot elevation town of Flagstaff, where the Grand Canyon is less than an hour away.
Some interesting storylines from the diverse list of contestants:
Rob Adolph, 54, of Fresno, Calif., played on five national championship teams during his collegiate years at the University of Southern California – 1972 and 1974 football teams and the 1972, 1973 and 1974 baseball teams. He is playing in his fourth Mid-Amateur.
Denny Alexander, 60, of Fort Worth, Texas, is playing in his third Mid-Amateur. He will enjoy the time with his good friend and caddie Esque Sanders, a retired employee of Lockheed Martin, who caddied for Ben Hogan from time to time in the 1950s and 1960s.
Alan Bratton, 34, of Stillwater, Texas, is enjoying his time back in the golf scene, both as a player and as assistant coach at Oklahoma State. A member of the 1995 USA Walker Cup team, Bratton is a reinstated amateur who also played in the recent U.S. Amateur.
Thomas Brennan, 45, of Covington, La., was forced to withdraw from last year’s Mid-Amateur due to Hurricane Katrina. The Brennan family owns several restaurants in the New Orleans area that survived the storm. He qualified for his 12th Mid-Amateur; he was runner-up in 1994.
Matthew Clarke, 45, of Loudonville, N.Y., learned to play golf from 1950 U.S. Amateur champion Sam Urzetta. He was a good student. Clarke won the 1983 individual NCAA Division III title while playing for Allegheny College (Pa.). He is playing in his fifth Mid-Amateur.
Jim Craffey, 48, of Franklin, N.J., played in two U.S. Amateur championships (1979 and 1981), but in 2001 needed a triple bypass heart surgery. He’s back playing golf again and has qualified for his first USGA championship since the surgery.
Rick DeWitt, 49, of Denver, Colo., has earned 17 state titles and a place in the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (2002). His wife, Gail, will be his caddie at this Mid-Amateur, his ninth.
Danny Green, 49, of Jackson, Tenn., is a former Mid-Amateur champion (1999) who has never taken a golf lesson. He has played in two Masters. In college at Tennessee-Martin, he was an All-American tennis player.
Kevin Hammer, 34, of Boyton Beach, Fla., is making his first Mid-Amateur appearance after regaining his amateur status. A former AJGA All-American, his godfather is professional golfer Bob Murphy.
Brian Harris, 35, of Kokomo, Ind., is playing in his second Mid-Amateur since receiving a pacemaker in 2003. He reached the quarterfinals at this year’s British Mid-Amateur.
Trip Kuehne, 34, of Dallas, Texas, is a member of the three-man USA team that will compete at the World Amateur Team Championship in October in South Africa (along with collegians Jonathan Moore and Webb Simpson). Kuehne was runner-up in the U.S. Amateur in 1994 to Tiger Woods. His brother (Hank) and sister (Kelli) are USGA champions.
James Lehman, 48, of Plymouth, Minn., is playing in his fourth Mid-Amateur. He manages his brother’s business dealings. His brother is Tom Lehman, professional golfer and USA Ryder Cup captain.
George “Buddy” Marucci, 54, of Villanova, Pa., is playing in his 20th Mid-Amateur. He was runner-up in the 1995 U.S. Amateur to Tiger Woods. He is captain of the USA Walker Cup team for 2007. He played on the 1995 and 1997 Walker Cup teams.
Corliss Nelson, 61, of Dallas, Texas, is playing in his first USGA championship. He didn’t begin trying to qualify for the Mid-Amateur or USGA Senior Amateur until he was retired.
Randy Nichols, 53, of Connersville, Ind., has qualified for more than 30 USGA championships. A past semifinalist, he is playing in his 15th Mid-Amateur. He is a member of the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame.
Tim Romero, 42, of San Juan Casistrano, Calif., took up the game of golf and became a scratch player in just 18 months, at the age of 35. He is a former professional skateboarder and surfer.
Nathan Smith, 27, of Pittsburgh, Pa., is the only member of the field to have played in the U.S. Junior Amateur at Forest Highlands in 1996. He failed to reach match play that year, but earned the Mid-Amateur title in 2003.
Ken Stevenson, 46, of Tallahassee, Fla., is the model of persistence. He earned a spot in this year’s Mid-Amateur after 19 failed past attempts. He made an eagle on his second to last hole to get in, shooting a 71 in qualifying.
Pat Tallent, 53, of Vienna, Va., is playing in his fourth Mid-Amateur. He has played in eight U.S. Amateurs and was low amateur at the 2004 U.S. Senior Open, then made the cut at the 2005 Senior Open. He was an All-American basketball player at George Washington University.
David West, 46, of Downingtown, Pa., has participated in two National Long Drive Championships (1988 and 1991). His longest measured drive in competition is a 393-yarder.
Blake Williamson, 33, of Anderson, S.C., is a member of the City Council since 2000. He was quarterback of the University of South Carolina football team from 1991-95. He now has qualified for consecutive Mid-Amateurs.
And lastly ...
Simon Young, 27, of Egremont, England is a player that amateurgolf.com took a special interest in after his victory at the British Mid-Amateur earned him an exemption into the USGA Mid Am. With just a month to pull the trip together, Young had a lot of juggling to do to make it happen. We were pleased to be able to help him find a caddie, which will hopefully level the playing field for the links golf expert who was also low amateur at the 2002 Open Championship at Muirfield.
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