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USGA Mid-Am: Hester Leads After First Round

CHATTANOOGA, TN (September 10, 2005) -- Brendan Hester of Northbridge, Mass., recorded two eagles and four birdies to take the lead with a 6-under-par 66 Saturday after the first round of stroke play at the 25th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

Hester, 35, competing in his ninth Mid-Amateur, played at the par-72, 6,944-yard Black Creek Club. He chipped in from 40 yards on the par-4, 335-yard 10th hole and pitched in from 20 yards out on the par-5, 530-yard 14th hole.

Despite recording the low round of the day, Hester wasn’t terribly impressed.

“It was okay,” he said. “It wasn’t lights out.”

Hester will play The Honors Course in Sunday’s second round, and knows he won’t be able to let up despite the low first-round score.

“You can’t approach it that way,” said Hester. “It’s a pretty good golf course. I’ll just have to go play each hole and each shot.”

Darin Newhouse, 32, of Tyler, Texas, was one shot off Hester’s pace after recording seven birdies and two bogeys at Black Creek.

“I’ve got a little cushion [to make the match-play cut],” said Newhouse, who is playing in his second Mid-Am. “We talked about that because it is tough over there [at The Honors Course]. As I was coming down the stretch I was like, let’s get all we can here. I just want to get into match play. I’ve just got to get there. It doesn’t matter where you are seeded.”

David Noll Jr. stood two shots back after recording five birdies and a bogey during his round at Black Creek. Noll, who hails from nearby Dalton, Ga., is enjoying being a local during this Mid-Amateur championship.

“It’s a treat to play in such a huge event and be able to sleep in my own bed,” said the 33-year-old Noll, who made it to the third round of the 2003 Mid-Amateur. “I have played The Honors a hundred or more times, but here (Black Creek) I’ve only played three times before today. What a beautiful golf course.”

Matching Noll’s 68 at Black Creek was Brian Haskell, 39, of St. Joseph Mo., who is playing in his first USGA championship. Frank Vana Jr., 43, of Boylston, Mass., and 1999 Mid-Am winner Danny Green, 48, of Jackson, Tenn., each finished with 3-under-par 69s at Black Creek.

Raymond Floyd Jr., 30, of Greenwich, Conn., had six birdies and four bogeys to lead the scoring at the 7,037-yard Honors Course with a 2-under-par 70. All the bogeys were a result of three-putts, but he wasn’t unhappy with his putting.

“All the three putts that I had today, with the exception of the one on the fifth hole, were just terrible iron shots,” he said. “I hit two bad wedges and a bad nine-iron, so I can’t really blame it on the putter. All in all, I putted pretty well. When you make six birdies on a course like this, obviously you did make some putts as well.”

Floyd, the son of 1986 U.S. Open champion Ray Floyd, is a return visitor to The Honors. In 1995, he played for Wake Forest University in the NCAA Division I Championship held at the course, where Tiger Woods won the individual competition.

“I just remember playing here and it being very difficult,” said Floyd. “We missed the cut as a team but I was in a playoff to go through as an individual. I don’t remember what I shot but I remembered that I played pretty well, so just based on that you kind of have a good feeling coming into a course like that. I’ve been here one other time and had fairly good results so it gives you a little bit of confidence coming in.”

Asked if he made the playoff at the NCAA championship, Floyd showed a good sense of humor:

“I think it was four guys for one spot and shockingly, I three-putted,” he said.

Floyd’s 70 was one of just five sub-par rounds at The Honors. Ken Kellaney, 49, of Phoenix, Ariz., was one stroke back at 71, joined by Carlton Forrester, 29, of Birmingham, Ala., 1996 U.S. Amateur Public Links champion Tim Hogarth, 39, of Northridge, Calif., and Parker Smith, 29, of Morristown, Tenn.

Defending champion Austin Eaton III of New London, N.H., stood seven shots back after an opening-round 1-over-par 73 at Black Creek.

After the second round of stroke play Sunday, the field will be trimmed to the low 64 scorers who will advance to match play at The Honors Course. The championship runs through Thursday’s 36-hole final match.

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.

Story written by Beth Murrison of USGA Media Relations. E-mail her with questions or comments at bmurrison@usga.org

ABOUT THE U.S. Mid-Amateur

The U.S. Mid-Amateur originated in 1981 for the amateur golfer of at least 25 years of age, the purpose of which to provide a formal national championship for the post-college player. The event is open to those with a USGA Handicap Index of 3.4 or lower. It is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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