Top amateur golf moments of 2018, No. 22: Defying the age odds
30 Nov 2018
by Julie Williams of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Ellen Port Rankings, Stewart Hagestad Profile

It was a good summer for mid-amateurs
It was a good summer for mid-amateurs

At AmateurGolf.com, we admit to loving the amateur sector of this game for the stories, the depth of the players, the remarkable courses, the history of the tournaments and the sheer love of the game displayed by amateur golfers. As 2018 comes to a close, we’ve gathered the year’s best stories for a countdown to the end of the season. Be sure to come back each day to relive the moments that made amateur golf great this year.

Click here to see the whole list as it is revealed

It’s not all that surprising that the average age of competitors at the U.S. Women’s Amateur is just below 20 years old. At the U.S. Amateur, it’s 22.59. Kids are flocking to the game, and getting better at it, at an ever-younger age. That’s also why when there’s a career amateur in the fight, our ears tend to perk up.

A handful of mid-amateurs played their way onto the match play bracket at both the U.S. Amateur and the Women’s Amateur, but the most intriguing storyline in this category revolved around Ellen Port. The 57-year-old became the oldest player to make match play at the Women’s Amateur since Anne Sandor did it in 1994. A mid-amateur hasn’t won the event for 40 years.

“I just always enter these tournaments, get in there and then anything can happen,” Port said after stroke-play qualifying at the Golf Club of Tennessee. “I’m looser in match play and I get stronger the longer I stay in it.”

No doubt, considering Port is a seven-time USGA champion. In a bit of match-play misfortune, Port drew one of the strongest match-play competitors in the Women’s Am field in the first round: Arkansas senior Dylan Kim. She ousted Port, 4 and 3, but another mid-amateur remained in the mix much longer.

Lauren Greenlief, 28, advanced all the way to the quarterfinals, eventually losing to Lauren Stephenson. It was the first time in six Women’s Am appearances that Greenlief, a former University of Virginia walk-on who won the 2015 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, had made match play in the event.

“Coming in this year, what was really different was I said mentally, I was playing to win,” Greenlief said.

A male mid-amateur broke a similar match-play drought at Pebble Beach the following week and shucked the proverbial monkey from his back. That was Stewart Hagestad, the 2016 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who had qualified for the U.S. Am nine times but never made match play.

“It really felt like a weight, a physical weight, had been lifted off me. It means the world to get to the next step,” said Hagestad, 27.

Three other mid-amateurs also made the bracket: Skip Berkmeyer, 44; Garrett Rank, 31; and Bradford Tilley, 35. Tilley made it as far as the second round, winning his first-round match after opponent Akshay Bhatia received a loss-of-hole penalty when his caddie accepted an unauthorized golf-cart ride. Hagestad fell in the Round of 16.

“For a mid-am it’s really hard,” Berkmeyer said in summing up a thirty- or forty-something player making match play. “You’ve got work and family and so many events you can miss, and this is the one I chose to miss for awhile, but it’s amazing how Pebble Beach brings you back.”

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