RICHMOND, TEXAS (Sept. 19, 2011) – Mike McCaffrey of League City, Texas, carded a second consecutive 4-under-par 68 on Monday – this coming on The Houstonian Golf & Country Club – to earn stroke-play medalist honors by three strokes at the weather-delayed 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
The 41-year-old reinstated amateur added to the first-round 68 he posted on Saturday morning at the 7,170-yard Shadow Hawk Golf Club for a 36-hole total of 8-under 136.
John Engler, 32, of Augusta, Ga., had been the overnight clubhouse leader at 5-under 139 after posting a 71 on Sunday at The Houstonian. Kevin Pomarleau, 42, of East Wenatchee, Wash., and 60-year-old Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C., the 2010 USGA Senior Amateur champion, were another shot back at 140. Simson shot a 73 on Sunday at Shadow Hawk and Pomarleau had a 72 at The Houstonian.
Two-time defending champion Nathan Smith, 33, of Pittsburgh, Pa., shot an even-par 72 at The Houstonian to finish in a group of five golfers at 2-under 142.
Kevin Marsh, 38, of Henderson, Nev., the 2005 Mid-Amateur champion, also advanced to match play at 2-over 146.
The cut for match play came at 5-over 149 with 20 golfers playing off for the final three match-play berths. That group included 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Todd Mitchell of Bloomington, Ill.
Both Shadow Hawk and the adjacent Houstonian Golf & C.C., which plays to 7,125 yards, are being used for stroke-play qualifying. The match-play portion of the competition, which was scheduled to begin on Monday afternoon, will be conducted at Shadow Hawk.
Weather plagued the 36-hole qualifying of the Mid-Amateur over the weekend, forcing the USGA to complete that portion of the competition Monday morning. Only half the field of 264 players finished qualifying on Sunday, and Monday’s re-start of the second round was delayed 30 minutes by early morning weather issues.
McCaffrey had completed 11 holes of his second round when play was halted for the day on Sunday. He had just teed off on the par-5 second hole – he started round two at No. 10 – and decided to complete the hole rather than stop when the horns blew. Players have the option of finishing the hole they are playing when play is suspended for a non-dangerous situation.
“We were going back and forth on whether we wanted to finish,” said McCaffrey. “Being a par 5, I wanted to really get it done because we had a little momentum. I had birdied 18, my ninth hole. It would have been nice to finish with a birdie and I did. We made the right decision.”
McCaffrey said his putter carried him over the two rounds of qualifying. He registered 14 birdies, eight coming at Shadow Hawk. Over his final seven holes on Monday, he posted two birdies against no bogeys. He maintained the momentum with a 10-foot par save at the 218-yard, par-3 eighth hole after short-siding himself in a right-greenside bunker.
“The putter has been really good,” said McCaffrey, who is competing in his first USGA championship. “I’ve been reading the greens real well and the green speeds are really good.”
Since being reinstated earlier in the year, McCaffrey said he has competed in five or six events, but only a handful of individual competitions. He won the South Texas Mid-Amateur, a stroke-play competition, and finished third at the Texas State Amateur, an event won by reigning U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft. He also lost to Rob Couture of Dallas at the Texas Mid-Amateur Match Play Championship outside of Austin.
But at his U.S. Mid-Amateur sectional qualifier in Houston, he carded a 64, the lowest score produced at any of the 67 sectionals held throughout the country.
Now he’ll enter match play as the No. 1 seed.
“It’s becoming a common denominator having a bull’s-eye,” said McCaffrey. “I’m excited. Whether I am medalist or not, whether you draw a good draw or not … you’ve got to win regardless.”
Engler, meanwhile, is looking to improve upon his 2010 Mid-Amateur performance when he advanced to the round of 32 before falling to eventual champion Nathan Smith at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y. The former Clemson All-American easily advanced into match play, closing Sunday’s second round at The Houstonian with an 8-iron approach to 10 feet that he converted for a birdie and a second consecutive under-par round.
“I knew kind of where I was at,” said Engler, who finished his round Sunday about 15 minutes ahead of a nearly four-hour weather delay. “I just wanted to stay in a good frame of mind and get in the top 64 [for match play].”
This is the second USGA championship this year for the left-handed swinging Engler, a reinstated amateur who played professionally for two years on the Nationwide Tour. He missed the cut at last month’s U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills.
But in 2003, while a professional, he suffered a severe ankle injury in an automobile accident coming home from a hunting trip on his parents’ farm. The injury, which eventually forced him to leave professional golf, still affects him and makes it difficult for him to walk.
“It continues to swell,” said Engler. “To be healthy, I can only play about one tournament a month. I played in the U.S. Amateur (last month) and now here.
“It was a pretty severe break, a major dislocation of the ankle; pretty nasty,” he said. “People said I would never be able to walk without a limp, much less play golf. I came back and was very fortunate to have a short professional career. Obviously I couldn’t do it as much [because of the injury].”
Simson is coming off a quarterfinal performance at last week’s USGA Senior Amateur at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Va., where he was trying to defend his title. The insurance agent was seeking his sixth USGA stroke-play qualifying medal, but nevertheless was pleased with his overall play. He will be the oldest player in the match-play draw.
“I played pretty solid,” said Simson, a co-medalist at the 2004 U.S. Mid-Amateur and four-time USGA Senior Amateur medalist, including 2011. “I hit the ball well and I’m putting pretty well. Yesterday I just hit the ball really well. I was hitting it close and making putts. I’m not at all disappointed. I’m going to take it easy this afternoon and gain some strength for match play.”
Simson felt Shadow Hawk was the more difficult of the two courses.
“This course is no doubt more difficult than the other one,” said Simson. “The tee shots are a lot more demanding. You have to be a lot more accurate with your ball off the tee and the placement off the tee. So I was just trying to hit good shots and get into a position where I’ll feel comfortable tomorrow, and I think I accomplished that.”
McCaffrey, however, was happy to be moving back to Shadow Hawk.
“Shadow Hawk suits my eye better,” said McCaffrey. “When you see all that water [on Houstonian], it’s a little intimidating. I felt like I was a little more on the defensive at The Houstonian. I’m glad we are going over there [for match play].”
The first round of match play was scheduled for Monday afternoon, with the second and third rounds set for Tuesday. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be played Wednesday, and the 36-hole championship final will be played Thursday.