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The mid-amateurs are back
04 Aug 2019
by Chris Brauner of AmateurGolf.com

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L-R: Stewart Hagestad, Garrett Rank, Kevin O'Connell, Matt Parziale
L-R: Stewart Hagestad, Garrett Rank, Kevin O'Connell, Matt Parziale

Garrett Rank's win in the prestigious Western Amateur is just the latest history-making feat of the newest generation of mid-amateur golfers. Rank, 31, became the first mid-am to win the Western since Danny Green in 1997, and continued an impressive run of success for the 25-and-older set.

Related: Rank, 31, defies age in winning Western Amateur

As recently as two decades ago, major national amateur championships were flush with "career amateurs" competing alongside the top collegians and juniors, but today it is rare to see more than a handful of mid-amateurs in the starting fields of the top amateur events.

When Kevin O'Connell won the Monroe Invitational in 2018 (he would go on to win the U.S. Mid-Amateur later in the year), it had been three years since a mid-am had won an important national event (Todd White at the 2015 Azalea) and seven since Nathan Smith's breakthrough win at the Sunnehanna Amateur in 2011. With players like Smith (a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion), White and Carlton Forrester now in the mid-master category (ages 40-54), mid-amateur golf needed a shot of new blood, and it appears that the new generation has arrived.

Stewart Hagestad has been the face of the new breed of mid-amateur and one of the few who has never played professional golf. His low-amateur finish at the 2017 Masters represented the first time a U.S. Mid-Amateur champ had even made the cut at Augusta National, and earlier this summer he became the first amateur in 34 years to qualify for three straight U.S. Opens.

Hagestad has been knocking on the door of a major amateur win this summer, finishing as the runner-up in both the Northeast and Players Amateurs (he led the latter on the final nine before fading late; he would have been the first mid-am ever to win). He will represent the U.S. on the Walker Cup team for the second straight time this fall.

Rank has put together an impressive resume as well, despite having to miss a large chunk of the competitive season because of his career as a National Hockey League referee. He came very close to winning the 2016 Sunnehanna Amateur, finishing as the runner-up to Collin Morikawa, and has had several good chances to win his national amateur.

And then there's Matt Parziale, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who the following year became the first mid-amateur in 15 years to make the cut in the U.S. Open, earning low amateur honors with a T48 finish.

There are others -- players like Scott Harvey, Justin Tereshko, Derek Busby, and Joseph Deraney -- who are making regular appearances and the occasional high finish in national amateur championships. But it is the quartet of Hagestad, Rank, O'Connell and Parziale who are currently carrying the flag for the mid-ams.

Still, there are some long droughts for mid-amateurs in some of amateur golf's biggest championships (see the list below). John Harris was the last mid-am to win the U.S. Amateur in 1993, and no mid-am has won the British Amateur since Stuart Wilson in 2004.

Major Amateur Events (last mid-amateur winner)

2019 Western Amateur (Garrett Rank)
2018 Monroe Invitational (Kevin O'Connell)
2015 Azalea Invitational (Todd White)
2011 Sunnehanna Amateur (Nathan Smith)
2010 Palmetto Amateur (Todd White)
2006 Northeast Amateur (Carlton Forrester)
2004 British Amateur (Stuart Wilson)
2002 Canadian Amateur (Dillard Pruitt)
2000 North & South Amateur (David Eger)
1998 Porter Cup (Gene Elliott)
1997 Southern Amateur (Ed Brooks)
1994 Pacific Coast Amateur (Mark Johnson)
1994 Dogwood Invitational (Allen Doyle)
1993 U.S. Amateur (John Harris)
1969 Southwestern Amateur (Dr. Ed Updegraff)
(never) South Beach International (8 tournaments)
(never) Jones Cup (15 tournaments)
(never) Players Amateur (20 tournaments)
(never) Sahalee Players (25 tournaments)

The new generation of mid-amateurs will all be the field at Pinehurst for next week's U.S. Amateur, each with an eye on making more history for themselves and for their resurgent age group.

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