Bolstered by a hole-in-one on the par-4 33rd hole, Sammy Schmitz, of Farmington, Minn., defeated Marc Dull, of Lakeland, Fla., 3 and 2, in the championship match to win the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur on the 6,855-yard, par-72 West Course at John’s Island Club.
Schmitz, a 35-year-old father of two who works in healthcare services, was angry when he walked to the tee of the uphill, 260-yard par 4 with a driver in his hands.
He had just lost the par-5 32nd hole with a bogey that resulted from plugging a short wedge shot into a greenside bunker. His lead stood at 2 up with four holes to play.
“That wedge shot got me fired up, missing the green from 110 [yards] and plugging it and giving the hole away,” said Schmitz, a 2003 NCAA Division III All-America player at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.
After Dull hit his tee shot on the West Course’s 15th hole, Schmitz rifled his driver, which landed on the green 17 feet to the left of the hole, caught the slope behind the hole and rolled back in for an ace. It is believed to be only the second hole-in-one on a par-4 in USGA amateur competition. Derek Ernst aced the 299-yard, par-4 eighth hole at Bandon Trails in the Round of 64 of the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.
“I can’t believe it,” said Schmitz, who advanced to match play in both of his previous Mid-Amateurs, losing in the Round of 64 in 2011 and the Round of 32 in 2012. “I’ve been hitting driver (on the hole) the entire tournament. I think I’ve hit the green four times. I just had a good feeling. I can’t believe it went in. It’s very surreal.”
Schmitz had one previous hole-in-one, an ace on a par 3 in a nine-hole scramble competition.
“I win [No.] 14 and I’m thinking maybe we can get back in this,” said Dull, who works at Streamsong (Fla.) Resort. “I didn’t hit a good tee shot, and when a guy jars it on a par 4, what are you going to do? You just shake his hand and laugh it off. It was an amazing shot that he hit.”
With a 3-up lead, Schmitz calmly reached the green on the downhill, 233-yard, par-3 34th hole with a 3-iron. Dull, who has caddied at Streamsong for two years, followed with a tee shot which landed in the right greenside bunker. He blasted to 10 feet.
When Schmitz, a recreational hockey player, two-putted from the front of the green for a par, Dull was closed out and Schmitz was a USGA champion, with a likely invitation to the 2016 Masters Tournament in the offing.
“It’s not real yet,” Schmitz said of winning the Robert T. Jones Jr. Memorial Trophy. “It feels real good. It’s been a long week, a long nine days being away from my two little girls at home. I’m pretty happy and proud.”
Schmitz, a three-time Minnesota Golf Association Player of the Year, was 2 up through the morning 18 holes of the 36-hole championship match. He opened the afternoon 18 with a birdie on the par-4 19th to take a 3-up advantage and extended his lead to 4 up with a birdie on the par-3 23rd hole. Dull won three of the next four holes to narrow his deficit to 1 down through 27 holes.
“I came out real focused and ready to go on the second round,” Schmitz said. “I made a couple of birdies but then fell apart on holes six through nine. Then I came out and played tough on the second nine of the second round.”
“I got it 1 down after 27 and then I just hit an awful golf shot,” said Dull of his play on hole 28. “You can’t give holes away at that point. I should have hit in the middle of the green and made him make birdies to beat me.”
Schmitz’s wife, Natalie, scrambled to return to the championship after being home with their two young daughters, flying to Atlanta and arriving at 11 p.m. Wednesday from Minneapolis-St. Paul. She and two of Schmitz’s close friends rented a car and drove through the night to Vero Beach, making it to the course minutes before the 7:30 a.m. championship match start time.
“This is by far the most golf I’ve ever played in a row,” said Dull, whose great-grandfather, Dexter Daniels, won two U.S. Senior Amateur championships. “I wouldn’t say that had anything to do with it. I don’t feel tired. I don’t feel fatigued. I just didn’t have it today. He played well; he made the putts when he had to make them.”
Schmitz edged Brad Wilder, 36, of Fort Wright, Ky., 1 up, in the semifinal round on Wednesday and Dull posted a 4-and-3 victory over David Bolen, 36, of Lubbock, Texas.
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
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.
The final day of the US Men’s Mid-Am Championship is a 36-hole test for golfers who have already had a long and draining week. The eighth –seeded Farmington, Minn. resident Sammy Schmitz faced Marc Dull, the 39th seed from Lakeland, Fla., with Schmitz needing only 34 of the 36 holes to claim the championship for a 2 & 1 victory.
Schmitz’s wife Natalie had made the trip from Minnesota to watch her husband play on Monday and Tuesday, but had to return home for work on Wednesday. After watching her husband’s progress online during work, she scrambled to get back down to Vero Beach for Thursday’s final.
She made it just in time to watch her husband tee off Thursday morning, a little weary but ready to help on the par-5 sixth hole when Schmitz hit his tee shot well right of the fairway.
“I walk ahead of the match because I get nervous and I don’t want to talk to anybody,” she told the USGA. “The [marshal] with the paddles was pointing, and I thought, oh god, it’s coming right toward me. I saw his ball hit the tree and roll back. I could see there was a perfect area for him to shoot through.”
After sharing a high-five with his wife of five years, Schmitz halved the par-5 hole by perfectly shooting through an opening, and on the next hole he went on to take his first lead of the match.
After Dull won the first two holes to take a 2-up lead, a couple of birdies by Schmitz on nos. 4 and 5 brought the match back to all square. Schmitz took a 2-up lead to the midway point, and went 3-up after a birdie on the 19th hole. Right after the lead went to 4-up, Dull fought back to win the next two holes when Schmitz went bogey-double bogey on the 24th and 25th holes. The lead dropped to 1-up on no. 27 when Schmitz carded a triple bogey, but he got that home back on no. 28 with a win.
A win on the 33rd hole was one that Schmitz won't soon forget. The 290-yard par 4 was ripe for some drama, and Schmitz did not disappoint when his tee shot found the hole for an ace. That brought Schmitz’s lead back to 3-up making the match dormie, and both players made par on the 34th hole, giving Sammy Schmitz the 3 & 2 win.
More to come from the USGA.