Marc Engellenner (USGA photo)
Marc Engellenner, 41, of Rocklin, Calif., matched the competitive course record at CommonGround Golf Course on Saturday, carding a 5-under-par 65 to share the first-round U.S. Mid-Amateur lead with Robbie Ziegler, 29, of Portland, Ore. Ziegler shot 5-under 67 at the par-72 Colorado Golf Club.
Engellenner’s performance on a cloudless day with temperatures in the 80s came on the 7,466-yard, par-70 stroke-play co-host for the championship. He was one stroke better than 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up Drew Kittleson, 30, of Scottsdale, Ariz.
The 65 tied the competitive mark set by eight players in 2012 when the course was the stroke-play co-host for the U.S. Amateur Championship at Cherry Hills Country Club. That group includes PGA Tour winners Justin Thomas, Max Homa and Cheng-Tsung Pan.
Ziegler, who was born in Denver, had the lowest round at Colorado Golf Club, which measured 7,585 yards. That was one better than 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball co-runner-up Ben Warnquist, 26, of Gaithersburg, Md. Colorado Golf Club will host the match-play portion of the championship beginning on Monday.
Engellenner’s day got off to a hot start when he eagled the 646-yard, par-5 third, hitting a hybrid from 300 yards to 8 feet. His other three birdies on the outward nine were from 6 feet and closer, and despite a minor hiccup on the par-4 16th, his lone bogey of the round, he closed with a birdie on the 596-yard, par-5 18th hole.
“I hit my driver really well today, so I had a lot of wedges into the greens,” said Engellenner, a founding partner of an event insurance company who missed the cut in his only other U.S. Mid-Amateur start in 2017. “It was one of the best days ever.”
Kittleson, a reinstated amateur (2016), entered the U.S. Mid-Amateur because several of his friends believe he can no longer compete on a national level.
“They think I’m washed up. They think I am terrible,” said Kittleson. “And they text me that. I’ve got to overcome a bunch of obstacles.”
Despite struggling as a professional, the 2011 Florida State graduate did have a decorated junior and amateur career, reaching the quarterfinals of the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur before losing in the 36-hole final of the 2008 U.S. Amateur to then 18-year-old Danny Lee, of New Zealand, at Pinehurst No. 2.
Kittleson produced a bogey-free round highlighted by an eagle-3 on the 539-yard seventh hole; his 7-iron second stopped 20 feet from the flagstick.
“The course is beautiful,” said Kittleson of CommonGround. CGC (Colorado Golf Club) is awesome too. There’s no wind or anything and it’s soft, so there’s plenty of birdies out there.”
Ziegler, a 2012 graduate of the University of Oregon, overcame a double bogey on the challenging 204-yard, 17th hole with an eagle on the par-5 16th and a 4-under 32 on his second nine, Colorado Golf Club’s outward nine, that included five birdies. This is Ziegler’s third USGA championship of 2019 following the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes and the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst.
“I have played in [USGA championships] before so I have a good feel for what we need to do in the stroke-play portion,” said Ziegler, who is making his seventh USGA appearance. “You don’t want to be too aggressive – conservative lines and aggressive swings – at least the first day of the tournament. I kind of stuck to that game plan and it worked out.”
After getting off to a slow start and shooting 1-over 37 on the outward nine of Colorado Golf Club, Warnquist, an insurance agent and 2015 graduate of the University of Maryland, blistered the second nine with six birdies over a seven-hole stretch.
“When I made the turn, I got motivated,” said Warnquist. “I hit a few good shots and made a few putts. I birdied [holes] 10, 11 and 12, which was encouraging because you have two par 5s (15 and 16) after that.”
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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