John Flaherty on the 18th hole at Country Club of Birmingham
BIRMINGHAM, AL (September 28, 2016) -- After the first day of the USGA State Men's Team Championship four teams, including defending champion Texas are tied for the lead at 2-under. Joining the Lone Star State atop the leaderboard at the Country Club of Birmingham are Missouri, Connecticut and Ohio.
Texas, the only under-par team in the afternoon wave, was paced on day one by Joshua Irving's 3-under 68 and 2014 returnee Zach Atkinson's 1-over 72. Irving, who won the Texas Mid-Amateur last weekend, carded six birdies, a bogey and a double-bogey during his round. On a day when Irving celebrated his 30th birthday he caught fire on holes 10-12 with three consecutive birdies.
“It was a really special day. It kind of hit me last night during the [flag procession] ceremony how special of an occasion this was. It was the most pressure I’ve felt in a golf round in my amateur career,” said Irving. “[The birdie putt on No. 2] went in and everyone cheered and I raised the putter and it just got me into the zone of really competing.”
For Missouri it was the scores of Richard Berkmeyer and Brad Nurski that counted toward the team score. George C. Thomas Invitational, a sixth place finisher at the 2016 George C. Thomas Invitational, led the team with a 2-under 69 that included four birdies and two bogeys. Nurski carded an even-par 71.
The Nutmeg State received an under-par round from Geoff Vartelas as he tallied a bogey-free 3-under 68. Vartelas birdied back-to-back holes on Nos. 12 and 13. John Flaherty shot a 1-over 72 to card the second Connecticut score of the day.
“I just played really solid today. I hit a lot of greens, just played a lot of really good iron shots, and kind of got lucky. I put it in the right spots on the greens out here. There’s a lot of undulation [on the greens] and you’ve got to put it in the right position to give yourself a good look, and I managed to do that pretty well today,” Vartelas said.
Ohio was paced by 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Bill Williamson's five birdie, three bogey 2-under 69 while Jeffrey Scohy shot an even-par 71.
Williamson was able to dig deep into his memory bank and use the experience gained at the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur also held at Country Club of Birmingham, "I’ve got a good golfing memory. I remember everywhere I hit it in every match. Just being comfortable on the property helps,” said Williamson. “I hit it close a lot, which is good. That [birdie putt on No. 18] from maybe 15 feet was the longest putt I made.”
In fifth after the first round even-par 71 it is the talented Pennsylvania team made up of Chip Lutz (74), Christopher Crawford (69) and Nathan Smith (73).
A total of seven states are within four-strokes of the lead.
-The USGA contributed to this story