Opening day at Colorado Golf Club (USGA photo)
The 2019 USGA season concludes this week with the U.S. Mid-Amateur, which will be played at Colorado Golf Club (and stroke-play companion course CommonGround Golf Club) near Denver, Colo. There are Masters and U.S. Open invitations on the line, as defending champion Kevin O’Connell has lived over the past year. There are a world of opportunities even for the runner-up, as Brett Boner can tell you.
Entering the week, we present a few storylines of interest. We have also suggested a few players to watch.
BACK TO BACK PERFORMANCE:
After this year, don’t doubt the fitness of Gene Elliott. The marathon man of senior golf seems to only play better the more he plays. Elliott, 56, will arrive at the U.S. Mid-Amateur the day after the end of the Canadian Senior Amateur, where he won by five shots. It’s his second time winning the event in the past three years.
The turnaround was so close that Elliott is lucky to have an afternoon tee time on Saturday.
The Iowa Golf Hall of Famer has done this dance many times already in 2019. He backed up the British Amateur Championship with a start at the George C. Thomas Invitational at Los Angeles Country Club. He also played the British Senior Open and the British Senior Amateur in back-to-back weeks. He won the Herman Sani Senior and the Iowa Senior in back-to-back weeks, and teed it up in the U.S. Senior Amateur two weeks after that.
It sounds like kid stuff playing so many events, but Elliott clearly doesn’t flinch when it comes backing up tournament days like dominoes.
BACK IN HIS ELEMENT:
Stewart Hagestad doesn’t particularly look like a mid-amateur (he could still easily pass for a college kid), but based on the number of mid-amateur questions he fielded before and during the Walker Cup at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, he sticks out like a sore thumb. Hagestad was the only man in last week’s matches, on either side, who had played the event before.
At 28, Hagestad had important perspective to give. He rallied the U.S. team the night before their Sunday victory with an impassioned speech about leaving it all out there.
Said 17-year-old teammate Akshay Bhatia, who paired twice with Hagestad in foursomes, “Stew obviously has been in the position before, so he knows what it takes to win the Walker Cup. Everyone in the team room gave some great speeches that motivated all of us, and Stew touched us all just because he knew what we're capable of and just the belief that comes out of the words he said were phenomenal. It definitely carried on for me today playing with him.”
Hagestad won the Mid-Amateur in 2016, which is what really started his upward trajectory in the world of mid-amateur golf.
RETURNING FACES WITH BIG RESUMES
: Todd White, 51, also once wore the mid-am hat at a Walker Cup. That was back in 2013 at National Golf Links in Southampton, N.Y. White and mid-am teammate won the clinching points for the U.S. team that year.
White, who paired with Smith two years later to win the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, doesn’t tee it up nearly as much these days. He last played the Mid-Am in 2017.
Drew Kittleson really doesn’t tee it up as much these days. The 30-year-old was runner-up to Danny Lee at the 2008 U.S. Amateur, and re-emerged on the USGA circuit last year at the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach. After some time spent chasing a life on the PGA Tour, Kittleson was reinstated as an amateur.
This will be his first U.S. Mid-Am start.
WINNERS AMONG US
: Past Elliott, perhaps the most recent winner in this field, keep an eye on other men who have taken home trophies recently – mostly because it’s never easy to win in golf.
Bob Royak enters the tournament just weeks after claiming the U.S. Senior Amateur title. Perhaps even more impressively, Garrett Rank, the 2012 Mid-Amateur runner-up, won the Western Amateur last month, which is one of the most grueling events and toughest tests of golf on the amateur circuit.
NUMBERS WORTH NOTING:
At 63, Kent Moore is the oldest man in the field. There are four 25-year-olds in the field. The average age of the 264 competitors is 36.71. . . . The international contingent continues to grow. In addition to the four states represented, there are 10 countries, which includes seven men from Canada, three from England and two from Argentina. . . . Unbelievably, Mike McCoy, the 2013 Mid-Amateur champion, has played in 21 of these events. Randy Lewis is next with 17 starts followed by Tim Hogarth with 16 starts.
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. 264
begin the championship with two rounds of sroke
qualifying held at two courses, after which the low
(with a playoff if necessary to get the exact number)
advance to single elimination match play.
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