RICHMOND, Texas (Sept. 17, 2011) -- Mike McCaffrey, 41, of League City, Texas, shot a 4-under 68 on Saturday to take the lead in the first round of stroke-play qualifying at the weather-delayed 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Play was suspended due to a dangerous weather condition at 2:58 p.m. and resumed at 5:30 p.m. Play was called for the day at 8:15 p.m. with 99 players yet to complete their first round.
McCaffrey, who played the par-72, 7,170-yard Shadow Hawk Golf Club, had eight birdies in his round, including four in a row from the seventh through 10th holes. His final birdie came on No. 17, when he made a 30-footer.
“It was bittersweet, starting with a bogey and ending with a double,” said McCaffrey. “Everything in between was pretty decent, though. I drove it in play and I hit it very decent and I putted it really well. I rolled the ball real well today. I only missed a couple of putts all day long.”
Playing in his first USGA championship, McCaffrey said his approach to the game has changed since he regained his amateur status in January.
“Since I quit playing professionally, it’s become more of a calm out on the golf course, because I don’t have to perform,” said McCaffrey. “We have five little ones at home, from 23 to 4, so I don’t feel like I have to make a cut to make a check to please a sponsor or put bread on the table. It’s more calming for me.”
One stroke off McCaffrey’s pace was David Noll Jr., 39, of Dalton, Ga., who also played at Shadow Hawk. Noll, playing in his sixth Mid-Amateur, had five birdies and two bogeys en route to a 69. Matching Noll’s 69 were Scott Kammann, 38, of Baneberry, Tenn., Scott Stevens, 42, of Encinitas, Calif., and Jimmy Chang, 41, of San Marino, Calif., who all played the companion stroke-play course, the par-72, 7,125-yard Houstonian Golf & Country Club, which is adjacent to Shadow Hawk.
Two-time defending champion Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh, Pa., opened with a 2-under 70 at Shadow Hawk. Smith, who played in the Walker Cup Match last weekend at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland, is the only three-time champion in Mid-Amateur history. But he said he doesn’t feel any additional pressure at Shadow Hawk this week.
“As for my legacy and winning it three times, that’s something I’ve never really thought about,” said Smith, who also won the championship in 2003 and 2009. “I’m just like everybody else and we’re all kind of going after the same thing. But you realize how special it is to be a champion of this event and possibly have an invitation to the Masters. I just think that anytime you’re playing in a USGA event you’re just trying to put your best foot forward and make match play and then who knows what can happen.”
Matching Smith’s 70 were Brett Williams, 30, of Circleville, Ohio, who played at Shadow Hawk, and Kevin Watford, 38, of Franklin, Tenn.
Paul Simson, 60, of Raleigh, N.C., was six under through 16 holes (he started on No. 10) at the Houstonian. Simson, the 2010 USGA Senior Amateur champion, will complete his round when the first round resumes Sunday at 7:30 a.m. CDT. He is a five-time USGA stroke-play medalist, including the 2004 Mid-Amateur when he shared the honor with Jeff Wilson.
After the second round of stroke play, the U.S. Mid-Amateur field will be reduced to 64 players for match play. The first round of match play is scheduled for Monday, the second and third rounds will be played Tuesday, the quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be played Wednesday, and the 36-hole championship final will be played Thursday.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Story written by Beth Murrison, USGA Manager of Championship Communications. For questions or comments, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.