FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (Sept 11, 2006) -- Defending champion Kevin Marsh of Las Vegas, Nev., and last year’s runner-up Carlton Forrester of Birmingham, Ala., were two of the 26 winners who advanced in the first round of match play Monday at the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Forest Highlands Golf Club.
Six matches were suspended because of darkness. Those matches will resume at 7 a.m. Tuesday.
Also advancing with wins were the two who shared stroke-play medalist honors with Forrester -- Trip Kuehne of Dallas, Texas, and Ryan Hybl of Winterville, Ga.
Play continues Tuesday with the second and third rounds of match play. The championship runs through Thursday’s 36-hole final.
Marsh, a 33-year-old commercial real estate developer, built a 3-up lead over the 6,941-yard Canyon Course, but needed a winning birdie on the par 4 17th hole to earn a 1-up win over Chip Lutz of Reading, Pa.
“I got a bit too content,” said Marsh. “I really didn’t putt well but I made that 8-footer on 17.
“Nobody’s going to give me any matches because I won this last year. This is a new year and a new golf course. I had to start thinking ‘I’ve done this before’ instead of ‘It’s been a nice run.’ I’m sure when he made birdie to get even on 16, he thought he had me.”
Forrester never lost a hole in his win over Tripp Davis, 4 and 3.
“I played solid,” said Forrester. “I didn’t make a bogey all day. I think getting to the finals last year is an advantage. You can rely on the experience.”
Hybl, a 25-year-old reinstated amateur who is playing in his first Mid-Amateur, raced out to an early lead by making winning birdies on the first five holes. He closed out Seth Sargent of Birmingham, Ala., 6 and 4.
“I just got off to such a fast start it was as though he couldn’t breathe,” said Hybl, the assistant golf coach at Georgia. “This is great! It’s fun playing with the older guys. They have a better perspective.”
Kuehne, 34, also jumped out to a quick start, winning two of the first three holes with birdies.
“I hit a lot of good shots,” said Kuehne, an investment broker who was the 1994 U.S. Amateur runner-up to Tiger Woods. “There are a few early holes out there where I can take advantage of my length, and I was able to do that.”
The biggest winner on the day was Alan Bratton of Stillwater, Okla., who downed his opponent by a 7-and-5 margin. Rick DeWitt of Arvada, Colo., was a 6-and-5 winner. Gene Elliott and Mike McCoy, who both belong to Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa, moved on with close decisions.
Two other past Mid-Amateur champions also advanced -- Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa., the 2003 champion, and Tim Jackson of Germantown, Tenn., the 1994 and 2001 winner. Smith defeated Eric Roustand of Tucson, Ariz., 5 and 3. Jackson came from behind to edge Greg Reynolds of Grand Blanc, Mich., 2 up.
Tim Hogarth of Northridge, Calif., the 1996 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion, also advanced.
The 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 Craig Smith, USGA direcgtor of media relations. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With 17 players qualifying "on the number" at 148, the luck of the draw came into play in a big way as pairings were made for the first round of match play. Jim Lehman of Minnesota drew one of the country's top amateurs, recent US Amateur semi-finalist Trip Kuehne of Texas.
Lehman got a quick look at Kuehne's 1-2 punch combo of length and short game, and found himself 3-down after 7 holes.
"I won the 8th and 9th holes to get back to 1-down at the turn," said Lehman, speaking from his cell phone on the way to the airport. "But he was very comfortable playing me, and if you feel comfortable with your position it's a big advantage."
Lehman described Kuehne's length this way.
"On number 13, we were both about the same distance off the tee, except I had hit driver and he hit 3-wood. From 215-yards out, I pushed a 3-hybrid to the edge of the green, and he hit 6-iron to 10 feet."
Indeed, Kuehne's length allowed him to birdie all of the par 5's, including Nos. 13 and 15, where he closed Lehman out 4 & 3.
"There are 6-10 standout players in the field, and he's certainly one of them," said the classic-swinging Lehman.
And he should know, Lehman is not only the brother of PGA Tour player and Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, he is a sports agent representing Tour players for SFX Golf.
To view the lates results from Forest Highlands, click on the name of the tournament next to "see also" at the top of this page and follow the "results" tab (amateurgolf.com premium membership requested).