(MN Golf Association Photo)
MEDINA, MN (October 4, 2016) -- At last year’s Minnesota Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship, Sammy Schmitz trailed eventual winner Joe McCormick by two shots entering the final round before carding a 2-over par 72 during the final round at Rochester Golf and Country Club, losing to McCormick by one shot.
Schmitz will have an opportunity to vindicate a disappointing finish from a year ago as a second-round 74 Tuesday gave the two-time winner a two-shot advantage ahead of Wednesday’s final round at Medina Golf and Country Club.
“Yesterday the conditions were right and my putter got hot,” Schmitz said Tuesday. “Today I hit a bunch of loose shots. I think 2-under will be in a good position after today.
“Today was choppy. I missed a lot of easy up-and-downs and hit the ball pretty bad,” Schmitz said after his round of 74 Tuesday. “The conditions were hard and I hung in there. I don’t know the course very well and it hurts me not knowing it. I don’t know the greens and I’m uncomfortable off the tee. Hopefully I’ll be more comfortable tomorrow.”
Playing Medina Tuesday, Schmitz got up-and-down from 40 yards at the second for birdie to quickly get to 1-under for the day and added his second birdie at the third when he sank his 12-foot downhill birdie putt.
An errant tee shot off the tee at the sixth led to bogey before Schmitz missed the green with a wedge at the seventh and took his second straight bogey. He would bogey the eighth as well to drop to 3-under for the tournament.
With an easy up-and-down at the 10th, Schmitz was unable save par with a two-footer and to fall to 2-under, but he would rebound with a birdie at the 11th.
Despite taking an uncharacteristic double-bogey at the 16th, Schmitz rolled in a 15-footer for birdie at the 17th to limit the damage and remain atop the leaderboard at 2-under par 142.
Claiming the Minnesota Public Golf Association Four-Ball Championship as well as the MPGA Combination, Schmitz advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which he won a year ago, and narrowly missed match play at the U.S. Amateur at Stonewall.
“Locally, this year’s been kind of disappointing. I’ve had to drop out of a bunch of tournaments. I didn’t play very well when I did play. I dealt with an arm and wrist injury for most of the year.
“Nationally I’ve been very satisfied—I almost made match play at the U.S. Amateur and got beat in the Round of 16 at [the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship]. You tend to step it up a little bit for the national stuff and prepare for it to make sure my game is honed in.”
Currently second in the MGA Player of the Year standings, trailing Trent Peterson by 48 points, Schmitz needs a fifth-place finish or better to wrap up his fifth award over the last six seasons.
“I’ve gotten a lot of free points this year because I was exempt into [USGA tournaments] but, I just want to win the tournament. I’ve taken second in this tournament three times,” Schmitz said Tuesday.
Schmitz won back-to-back MGA Mid-Amateur Championships in 2011 and 2012.
“I struggled last year in the third round; I was all over the place. The result was okay, finishing second, but I struggled the whole week, actually.”
Jim Lehman, who won the Mid-Amateur Championship in 2003, begins Wednesday’s final round on the heels of Schmitz as Lehman carded back-to-back rounds of even par 72 and sits alone in second place at 144.
“I played really solid again today,” Lehman said. “I messed up 11 and on 18 I tried to hit a really hard 6-iron and went after it too hard. Otherwise, I only had two bogeys on a really hard day so I’m really proud of that.”
Lehman dipped into red numbers during the second round Tuesday following a birdie at the par-5 fifth, sticking his approach to six feet and converting his birdie opportunity.
At the ninth, Lehman wedged his approach inside of three feet from 111 yards and would turn at 2-under for the championship. Hitting the 11th green in two, Lehman would take a bogey to fall back to 1-under before failing to get up-and-down for par on the final hole after sending his approach wide of the green to the left.
Lehman notched his third MGA Senior Amateur Championship in the past four years in late August after shooting two rounds of 72 before carding a 68 during the final 18 to win the championship by 11 shots.
He qualified for the match play at the 2016 Crump Cup before surviving a 9-hole playoff in the semifinals and went on to beat Tommy Brennan, 1-up, during the final match Sept. 25 at Pine Valley Golf Club in Pine Valley, N.J.
“It’s been like an out-of-body experience,” Lehman described his success during the final months of the season. “I really work hard on my game. I took a lesson a couple months ago and got me thinking about a couple things—simple stuff, no big changes. It seems like it’s been getting better and better. I’ve been making putts, too.
“I have a lot of confidence that if I play my game and take it hole by hole, then I’ll be fine. I feel I’ve been playing like I did at [MGA Senior Amateur Championship]. I played solid golf and if I could have a final round like that I’m in good shape.”
Troy Johnson, a two-time champion, carded a second-round 75 Tuesday and will begin the final round tied for third at 145 with Will Hickey and Ben Greve, three shots back of Schmitz.
The final round of the 29th MGA Mid-Amateur Championship begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday at Medina Golf and Country Club.
ROUND ONE RECAP
A 4-under par 68 by two-time champion Sammy Schmitz paced the field Monday to begin the 29th Minnesota Golf Association Mid-Amateur Championship at Medina Golf and Country Club and Baker National Golf Club.
Leif Carlson and Troy Johnson each carded rounds of 2-under par 70 to finish the opening day of competition tied for second, two shot back of Schmitz.
A pair of bogeys overshadowed Schmitz’s one birdie during his front nine Monday at Baker National, but Schmitz would catch fire over the final nine, sinking five birdies to shoot 31 over the final nine holes to finish on top of the leaderboard after the opening round at 68.
Schmitz, Valleywood Golf Course, won the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Fla., and was helped by a miraculous ace at the 290-yard, par-4 33rd hole, en route to a 3 and 2 victory over Florida’s Marc Dull.
Carlson, Valleywood Golf Course, started quickly at Medina Monday, rolling in three birdies in a span of seven holes before taking a bogey at the ninth to turn at 2-under.
The 2012 MGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year would card a pair of birdies and two bogeys over the final nine holes to finish in a tie for second at 2-under par 70.
Johnson, who won the event in 2010 and again in 2014, showcased why he’s been one of the state’s most consistent players in recent years Monday at Baker National, carding a birdie and the par-4 third and a second birdie at the 11th to finish with a bogey-free 70 and will begin the second round Tuesday, tied for second only two shots back.
Joe O’Brien, Ben Grieve and David Anderson each carded rounds of 71 Monday to finish the opening day of competition tied for fourth.
The 29th MGA Mid-Amateur Championship continues Tuesday at both Medina and Baker National, with tee times scheduled to begin at 8 a.m.
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