Flagstaff, Ariz. (Sept 9, 2006) -– Eric Rustand, 37, of Tucson, Ariz., and Ryan Hybl, 25, of Winterville, Ga., each shot 67 to share the lead after the first round of stroke play Saturday at the 26th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, being played at Forest Highlands Golf Club.
One stroke back are defending champion Kevin Marsh, 33, of Las Vegas, Nev., and two-time USA Walker Cupper Trip Kuehne, 34, of Dallas, Texas.
Rustand, playing at the par-72, 7,339-yard Meadow Course, recorded six birdies, including three in a row from the 14th to 16th holes, to finish with a 5-under 67.
“I always hope it’s in there,” said Rustand of his low round. “I’m hitting the ball well and these courses set up well for me. I like to play the ball left to right and you can play that on every shot out here. Once I got over the nerves of it all, I was fine.”
Rustand returned to amateur standing in January after a three-year waiting period. He played professionally after college, with a best finish of seventh at the 1999 Tucson Open.
“I got tired of doing this for a living,” said Rustand, who is playing in his first USGA event. “I just enjoy playing, period.”
Hybl recorded birdies on his final two holes to finish at 4-under 67 at the par-71, 6,941-yard Canyon Course.
“I feel really good about that round,” said Hybl, who is playing in his first Mid-Amateur. “This is a hard golf course and I think we played in some pretty tough conditions. There was some swirling wind and a little rain once in a while. I’m pleased with the round. I hit the ball pretty well and I putted the ball pretty well. All in all, just a solid round.”
Of the 13 subpar rounds shot during the first round, 11 were recorded at the Meadow Course. Opening with a low score on the tougher of Forest Highlands’ two courses won’t change the approach for Hybl, the assistant golf coach at the University of Georgia.
“I’m going to go over the Meadows Course and just stick with my game plan and try to make as many birdies as I can and shoot a good round over there,” he said. “I really like the Meadow course. I think it’s a good golf course, but you have to play smart golf over there just like you do here.”
Marsh, who had seven birdies and three bogeys en route to a 4-under 68 at the Meadow Course, is trying to become just the second player to successfully defend his Mid-Am title. Jim Stuart, who won in 1990 and 1991, is the only repeat winner.
“The hardest part is playing with the expectations I have now,” said Marsh. “I play my best when I just go out and see what happens. I got off to a hot start, and I’m happy with my 68, but I left three or four birdies out there.”
The shot of the day belonged to Derek Berg, 25, of Duvall, Wash. Berg, playing at the Meadow Course, made a double eagle on the par-5, 579-yard third hole.
The second round of stroke play is set for Sunday before the field is trimmed to the low 64 scorers who will advance to match play on the Canyon Course at Forest Highlands. The championship runs through Thursday’s 36-hole final match.
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.
Story written by Beth Murrison of USGA Media Relations. E-mail her at email@example.com with comments or questions.
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