Sammy Schmitz, 35, of Farmington, Minn., and Marc Dull, 29, of Lakeland, Fla., each won quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Wednesday to advance to Thursday’s 36-hole final match of the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, held on the par-72, 6,855-yard West Course at John’s Island Club. The final is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. EDT.
Schmitz, at No. 8 the highest remaining match-play seed since the start of the quarterfinal round, edged Brad Wilder, 36, of Fort Wright, Ky., in their semifinal, 1 up. Dull, who is a caddie at Streamsong (Fla.) Resort, posted a 4-and-3 victory over David Bolen, 36, of Lubbock, Texas, in the other semifinal.
“This is my biggest accomplishment in golf by far,” said Schmitz, who upended Joshua Irving, 29, of Dallas, Texas, 4 and 3, in the quarterfinals on Wednesday morning. “There’s just something magical about a USGA golf event to me and a lot of friends back home.”
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.
“I still cannot believe it – my mind is blown,” said Dull, who is playing in his second USGA championship, including the 2009 U.S. Amateur. “And for 36 holes, in the end the best guy will win, so it’s going to be fun tomorrow.”
Schmitz, who reached match play in his previous two Mid-Amateurs in 2011 and 2012, sank a 21-foot eagle putt that curled in the right side of the hole on the 506-yard, par-5 17th hole to take the lead against Wilder. He set up the putt by hitting a 215-yard 4-iron approach to the middle of the green. He nearly made a 24-footer for birdie on the final hole after finding the green with his second shot from the right rough and was conceded the match.
“I’ve made a lot of putts on hole 17,” said Schmitz, who is No. 3,724 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking™. “I haven’t necessarily played the hole that great, but I’ve made lot of putts for birdie, and that was a good one for a 3.”
Added Wilder about the closely-contested battle, “Obviously his eagle on 17 was fantastic. You’ve got to tip your hat to that. And he hit a hell of [an approach] shot on 18; I don’t think people understand how difficult that shot he had was, because if he flies it onto the green, it’s out of here… He got really fortunate on the bounce, but he hit a hell of a shot to get it where he did.”
Wilder, who was playing in his fourth U.S. Mid-Amateur, grabbed a 1-up lead on No. 12 when he struck his approach shot from the left rough to within 11 feet to set up a birdie. But he followed that by pushing his tee shot on the par-3 13th into the water, resulting in a bogey, and the match was all square.
Schmitz and Wilder halved the 279-yard, par-4 15th and the par-3 16th to set up the late-match dramatics. Each player drove the green and made birdie on No. 15, before Wilder missed a 6-foot par putt on No. 16 that would have won the hole.
“I putted so well all week and I putted defensively in this match, and you can’t do that in match play,” said Wilder, who defeated Jess Daley, 37, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 1 up, in the quarterfinal round. “You’ve got to take advantage of opportunities when you get them. I missed a little putt on 11 and I missed a little putt on 16. I like to think if I make both of those, I win the match.”
On the outward nine, the players traded birdies on holes 4 and 5 to keep the match all square. Schmitz, who works for a healthcare services group, made a 6-foot putt on No. 5. Wilder used a two-putt par to win the par-3 seventh, but lost the lead with a double-bogey 6 on No. 10.
Dull won holes 9, 10 and 11 to build a 4-up lead. Bolen hit his tee shot into the left fairway bunker and found the trees with his approach, which led to a bogey on the par-4 ninth. Dull, whose great-grandfather Dexter Daniels claimed two U.S. Senior Amateur titles, won the following hole with a two-putt par before sinking a 5-foot birdie putt on the short par-4 11th.
“Guys can make birdies, guys can get hot,” said Dull of his thought process during his run of winning holes. “So you need to win them when you can. It happened to me in my match (Tuesday) afternoon. I hit some good shots and got behind, and it just helped me focus today.”
After Bolen won No. 14 with a birdie, Dull closed out the match with a flair on the drivable par-4 15th. He hit his 3-wood to the left of the green and the ball came to rest in the pine straw. He then chipped to within a foot by landing the ball on the fringe and letting it trickle downhill to the hole.
“I mean, there was a lot of luck involved,” said Dull, whose caddie Richard Stapleton also works at Streamsong. “I landed it right where I wanted to, I just got the right bounce. I was just hoping to get in on the green and get a putt.”
Schmitz got off to a fast start in his quarterfinal-round win over Irving by winning two of the opening three holes with pars. He was still leading 2 up after 12 holes when he holed a 30-footer for birdie on the par-3 13th. He carved his tee shot to within 18 feet on the par-4 15th and two-putted for another birdie that ended the match.
Dull knocked off David Gies II, the youngest remaining player in the field at age 26, in the quarterfinals, 3 and 2. He hit a 191-yard 7-iron to within 10 feet to set up a birdie at No. 13 and forge a 2-up lead before nearly holing a 90-foot eagle chip from the right side of the green on No. 15 that gave him a three-hole cushion.
Earlier in the day, Wilder held off Daley, a college teammate of PGA Tour veteran Luke Donald at Northwestern University who was reinstated as an amateur earlier this year, with a birdie at the par-5 17th. Bolen reached the semifinals by taking out 2013 USA Walker Cup Team member and 2015 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball champion Todd White, 4 and 3.
The semifinalists receive a two-year exemption into the U.S. Mid-Amateur. The 2016 championship will be played Sept. 10-15 at Stonewall Links, in Elverson, Pa.
Both finalists are exempt into the 2016 U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club, in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and are exempt into 2016 U.S. Open sectional qualifying. The champion also receives a likely invitation to the 2016 Masters.