ELVERSON, PA (September 12, 2016) -- Just about 48 hours ago it looked as if the U.S. Mid-Amateur title defense for Sammy Schmitz was going to be a short one. After the first day Schmitz was 5-over and tied for 94th, however an even-par 70 on a difficult second day, vaulted the 2015 champion up the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd and a spot in the Round of 64.
“It seemed a little ridiculous to have in your head that you are going to defend a USGA title,” Schmitz said of his mindset.
Playing as the 25-seed, Schmitz got off to a good start on Stonewall Links' Old Course and he was able to handle 40-seed Roger Hoit 3&2.
Both players were a little shaky on the 1st hole and a double-bogey was good enough to win it for Schmitz. Leading 1 up the lead increased to 3 up with wins on each of the next two holes. Not one to go quietly, Hoit won the next two holes to draw within 1 down.
However, that was as close as he got as Schmitz extended his lead to 4 up thanks to hole winning birdies on the 7th, 8th and 9th holes.
“I had the same situation last year where I struggled in the first match and didn’t have my best,” said Schmitz. “It was kind of a wake-up call. I came out hot the next day so I am hoping to do that again tomorrow.”
It was also a successful day for the three medalist winners. Michael Muehr was the top-seed and he had the easiest day of the three handing No. 64 Kyle Hoffman 3&2.
Muehr, a former PGA Tour player, grabbed an early 2 up lead with wins on Nos. 1 and 3. Hoffman, who emerged from a 14-for-1 playoff in the morning got a hole back on the 5th only to see the lead pushed returned to 2 up on the next hole. A birdie on the par-3 9th brought Hoffman within 1 down for a second time but wins on 13th and 15th for Muehr moved the match to dormie and one hole later after a halve, it was over.
“The more times you put yourself in that spot the more comfortable you are,” said Mueh of his Round of 64 victory. “It’s a matter of managing expectations.”
The second of the three medalist's to advance was Thomas Werkmeister, in one of the best matches of the day. Werkmeister, the two-seed, locked horns with 63-seed Ben Blundell.
Early in the match it was Blundell taking a 2 up advantage with wins on Nos. 2 and 4. The lead was still 2 up as the players left the 12th hole but Werkmeister had a rally in him. On the 13th he birdied to draw within 1 down and then with another birdie on No. 16 the match was tied.
The duo halved the next two holes sending the match to a playoff and after a halve on the 19th, Werkmeister was finally able to close the door on the 20th hole.
After knocking his second shot in the bunker on the final playoff hole Blundell played out to 20-feet and then kept his hopes alive by rolling in the par putt. The only problem was that Werkmeister had a birdie putt from 19-feet on the same line and answered right back with the winning putt.
“I am kind of proud of myself,” said a relieved Werkmeister. “I had a lot of negative thoughts going on out there. It’s a relief to get this one.”
It wasn't an easy match for record four-time medalist winner Scott Harvey. The 2014 champion won the first two holes of his match against No. 62 Mike Stackus in what was only the start of a seesaw tilt. Harvey was still maintaining the 2 up lead after the 9th hole when Stackus went on a run and birdied three holes in a row to flip the match and take a 1 up lead.
Harvey, however didn't seem flustered in the least as he responded by winning the next three holes, two with birdies to restore has advantage to 2 up.
Stackus would make one last push, getting within 1 down after a 15th hole win, but Harvey was able to close the match out 2&1 on the 16th despite bogeying the hole.
"Yeah, it definitely bailed me out today,” said Harvey of his putting. “It bailed me out a couple times yesterday to be co-medalist, and it’s keeping me around right now. But the further you go into match play, you better start doing it all.”
The most lopsided match of the day went to No. 4 Derek Busby as he defeated No. 61 Antonio Grillo. With the match all-square after three holes Busby won the next seven holes to take a 7 up lead before closing out the match on the 12th.
60-seed Bryan Hoops is the highest seed remaining after his upset win over five-seed Joseph Saladino. The match went back and forth throughout the day and after Hoops won the 16th hole the match was all-square. On the ensuing hole Hoops took the lead for good with a par and then completed his 1 up victory with a bogey on the 18th.
Play will continue tomorrow at Stonewall Links Old Course with the Round's of 32 and 16 scheduled.
-The USGA contributed to this story