U.S. Mid-Am 22-for-2 playoff, one Contestant's Account
Editors Note:

One of our California members, John Sawin, posted an account of his experience in a "22- for-2" playoff at the U.S. Mid-Am on his Facebook page. We enjoyed it so much that we asked John if we could post it on AmateurGolf.com, and if he would write for us in the future. While the former Stocker Cup and Travis Invitational champ didn't get through to match play this time, we know he'll have plenty more opportunities to do so, and to make a run at the title.


by John Sawin

There seems to be a lot of interest in the playoff at John's Island Golf Club - I guess the thought of 22 guys playing one hole for two spots in the match play bracket of the US Mid-Am sparks some intrigue. So I figured I'd post a quick summary.

When I went to bed last night, I was pretty sure I had thrown away my chances. I followed a near flawless 2-under par round on Saturday -- which was about as high as I could have scored and left me one shot off the lead -- with a dismal 79 Sunday, which was about as low as I could have scored. Yes, golf can be a strange and humbling game.

My hopes were lifted just after dawn Monday however, as the few relevant players left to finish out their stroke play rounds stumbled home, moving the cut from 5-over and opening the door back up, if only slightly, for a group of 22 guys who had posted 6- over. I say slightly because there were only two spots to compete for - longer odds than I'd ever seen let alone heard of in a playoff - but at least we had a chance.

The playoff hole was the par-3 13th, the signature hole at Johns Island West, whose teeing ground sits just below the clubhouse and faces the green 185 yards down the hill and across a beautiful lake. The pin was set precariously close to the water hazard guarding the front and right sides of the green. Under normal circumstances, a 6 iron to the center of the green would be the prudent play, but these were not normal circumstances. Most if not all realized a birdie would likely be needed to survive the first hole, and we all dreamt of the unlikely walk-off ace. Might as well dream, right?

Two of the 22 players somehow missed the memo, so the remaining 20 were broken into five groups of four based on the order of score posted. I had the honor in the second group and watched closely as three in the first group made 2-putt pars, while the fourth pushed his in the water and promptly headed straight for the parking lot.

As I waited my turn, I couldn't help but notice what a cool setting I was in the midst of.

I'm pretty sure the members and volunteers had been speculating about and waiting anxiously for this playoff type moment for months, as they were out in full force, both around the tee and behind the green. In addition, most of the 62 players already in the match play field and their caddies and family members were there watching before their matches started. So yes, I was VERY nervous.

I barely remember swinging my 7 iron, but I definitely remember the contact, which felt like a tentative wipe. My eyes quickly caught the ball and confirmed the feeling - headed right. But somehow instead of fading off into the water, it fell a hair left and landed on the tiniest sliver of green. The hop was a big one, which I thought still might send my ball over the edge and into the hazard, but the thick dew on the fringe held it up. All of a sudden, I had a 15 footer for birdie.

My playing partners missed their longer attempts first, so still no birdies in seven tries, but I was sure I needed to make mine. I put a good, firm stroke on it, but the grain in that one foot of fringe I had to go through pulled it just a hair left off the face. Still, as it rolled briskly toward the hole, I thought it had a very good chance to catch the low edge. My heart sunk when it didn't. And then rolled another 3 feet by. Ugh.

Somehow I got the next one to drop, and then the waiting game began. Through three full groups, still no birdies. Justin Young in the fourth group broke the drought with a 10 footer straight down the hill to effectively clinch his spot. The fifth and final group contained 4-time champion Nathan Smith, and we could all see how this was shaping up. The guy seems to have that X factor in this tournament, and this moment was another perfect example.

He dropped his tee shot 15 feet above and left of the hole, leaving a slippery left-to-right breaker that most people would lag and be content going to the next playoff hole. I could tell right off the putter this was no lag, and he is not most people. His putt was the last shot struck of the wild playoff and sent the gallery into a tizzy. At that point, all I could do was take my hat off and go shake the guy's hand, offering "I feel bad for the medalist." He nearly took that medalist and defending champion, Scott Harvey, down four hours later, eventually losing in 19 holes to a birdie-birdie finish - a taste of his own medicine, I guess.

ABOUT THE U.S. Mid-Amateur

The U.S. Mid-Amateur originated in 1981 for the amateur golfer of at least 25 years of age, the purpose of which to provide a formal national championship for the post-college player. The event is open to those with a USGA Handicap Index of 3.4 or lower. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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