Scott Harvey, 37, of Greensboro, N.C., defeated Nathan Smith, 37, of Pittsburgh, Pa., on the 19th hole in a clash of champions in the first round of match play at the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, held at the par-72, 6,855-yard John’s Island Club’s West Course.
Scott Harvey, the defending Mid-Amateur champion, forced extra holes with a birdie on the par-4 18th, then sank a 14-footer for another birdie on the first extra hole. Smith, who is the lone player to win this championship four times and last garnered the title in 2012, had made a 4-foot birdie putt on the short par-4 15th to take a 1-up lead.
“He’s everybody’s hero,” said Harvey about Smith, who has won five USGA championships overall and played on three USA Walker Cup Teams. “If you are facing him, you know you have a tough road ahead.”
Harvey and Matt Parziale, 28, of Brockton, Mass., were co-medalists at 4-under-par 139 in the stroke-play portion of the championship, which was completed on Monday morning due to a weather delay of more than an hour on Sunday.
Parziale, a Brockton firefighter, also rallied against his first-round opponent, Justin Young, 37, of Roanoke, Va., but fell in 19 holes.
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, Oct. 8, starting at 7:30 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.
Smith, who advanced to the match-play bracket by surviving a 22-for-2 playoff for those who shot 6-over 149 in stroke play, built an early 3-up lead by winning three holes with pars. But he hooked his tee shot into a nearly unplayable lie on the ninth to start a downward slide. Harvey was conceded a 20-foot eagle putt on the par-4 11th for another win, and he squared the match on No. 12 with a winning par.
“I don’t think any lead is safe out here,” said Smith, who has advanced to match play in all 11 U.S. Mid-Amateurs he has played and lost for just the second time in the Round of 64. “You have a lot of birdie opportunities. You make the turn at 2-up and he hits it in there on 11 for eagle and it’s a hard shot and I miss the green.”
Harvey, who said he fought to maintain his composure during the match while struggling to find his game, was able to summon his putting stroke over the closing holes. He made a 6-footer for par to halve No. 17 and then struck a 132-yard pitching wedge to within 8 feet to set up the birdie on No. 18 that forced extra holes.
“I hope I can build some confidence,” said Harvey, who reached the Round of 32 for the eighth consecutive year with rounds of 69-70 in stroke play. “It doesn’t mean I am going to do it when I need it, but it means I can. That’s big.”
Parziale, who shot 70-69 in stroke play, pushed his match to extra holes by winning Nos. 16 and 18, but he tugged his short approach into a bunker on the par-4 first hole and missed a 15-footer to lose to Young’s two-putt par.
“He made a couple of nice up-and-downs early to keep it tied, and he made some nice putts,” said Parziale, who made three trips to PGA Tour Qualifying School before being reinstated as an amateur two years ago. “I don’t think I putted badly – I thought I had it right in the center the last three holes, but they just weren’t falling.”
“He hit the ball great, but I made the putts,” said Young, who started his day by making an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-3 13th hole to grab one of the two available spots in the playoff and earn the No. 63 seed.
Robby McWilliams, the No. 3 seed, and Brian Komline, the No. 4 seed, also lost in the first round. Kevin Van Rossum, 37, of Hartland, Wis., upended McWilliams, 47, of Benton, La., 4 and 3. Reid Hatley, 34, of Hayden Lake, Idaho, defeated Komline, 41, of Bridgewater, N.J., 2 and 1.
Hatley, who had not played competitive golf for seven years due to a knee injury and a growing golf-accessory business, broke open a tight match by winning holes 10 and 11. He cut a 150-yard, 8-iron approach to within 18 inches for a conceded birdie before sinking a 3-footer on the following hole.
“I feel I do belong when I am healthy,” said Hatley, who was a college teammate of 2002 U.S. Amateur champion Ricky Barnes and was reinstated as an amateur in 2008. “I can compete as long as I mentally keep myself in the game.”
Mike McCoy, who like Harvey was a member of the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team, drained a 35-foot birdie putt on his final hole, the par-5 17th, to hold off long-hitting Ryan Brimley, 26, of Heriman, Utah. In an up-and-down match, McCoy, the No. 5 seed, won three of four holes to begin the inward nine without making a birdie.
“You never get through clean,” said McCoy, a 52-year-old from Des Moines, Iowa, who won the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “You always have to battle through some sloppy play at some point. It’s a long week.”
Kevin Marsh, the winner of the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur and a semifinalist three times, was not as fortunate as McCoy, losing to Travis Woolf, 27, of Fort Worth, Texas, 3 and 2.
Pat Tallent, who at age 62 is the oldest player remaining in the match-play bracket, edged Bowen Osborn, 35, of Los Angeles, Calif., 1 up. Tallent, who claimed last year’s U.S. Senior Amateur title and has reached match play in four of his seven U.S. Mid-Amateurs played, pulled ahead by winning Nos. 11 and 12 with pars.
“I don’t think I can go two rounds in one day,” said Tallent, who was chosen in the 1976 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets (now Wizards). “But we’ll worry about that if I get that far.”
By Brian DePasquale, USGA’s manager of championship communications. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.