Ben Warnquist (USGA photo/Chris Keane)
Ben Warnquist, 26, of Gaithersburg, Md., a past runner-up in a USGA championship, earned himself another medal on Sunday by besting the field in the stroke-play portion of the 39th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Warnquist, who finished second with partner Brandon Cigna in the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, matched his 68 from Saturday’s opening round at Colorado Golf Club on Sunday at stroke-play co-host CommonGround Golf Course to post a 36-hole total of 6-under 136. His score was one stroke better than Robbie Ziegler, 29, of Portland, Ore.; 2018 quarterfinalist Ryan Eibner, 28, of Dallas, Texas; Brandon Dalinka, 26, of New York, N.Y.; and Paul McNamara, 28, of Dallas, Texas.
“It means a lot,” said Warnquist. “It’s not the end goal, but it means a lot. My game’s been coming a long way the past couple of years and I’ve never done anything like this. I’ve always been a good two-day player. I’ve won a lot of qualifiers, nothing like this, but I’d like to extend and see if I could be a five- or six-day player and go a little deeper.”
The Denver-born Ziegler, who posted a 5-under 67 on Saturday for the low round at the 7,620-yard, par-72 Colorado Golf Club, had a 1-under 70 at 7,558-yard, par-70 Commonground, finishing his round by converting a 3-foot birdie on the 596-yard, par-5 18th hole. The other three players all played Colorado Golf Club on Sunday, with McNamara matching Ziegler’s Saturday effort with a 67. McNamara had a 68 and Eibner shot a 70.
The cut for match play came at 5-over 147. Eighteen players will play off Monday morning at Colorado Golf Club for the final six spots in the 64-player draw.
Warnquist, an insurance agent who graduated in 2015 from the University of Maryland, never had to worry about the cut. But his 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 ninth, his last of the day, pushed him out of the logjam at 5 under.
“I figured I was close,” said Warnquist. “I got an update that [the lead] was at like 5, 6, 7 [under], somewhere in there, so I was really grinding to try and finish strong.
“Whatever it was, coming from Maryland to Colorado, anything inside 100 yards [for an approach shot] has been tricky. Whether it be the elevation or the firmness, I don’t know. But I haven’t been hitting them close, so I was happy to hit one to inside 10 feet there and make the putt.”
Leaving CommonGround on Saturday night, McNamara’s thoughts weren’t on chasing medalist honors. It was simply finding energy to tee it up. The University of Notre Dame graduate had played well, shooting a 1-under 70, but after 12 holes, he became so dehydrated that he needed an IV after signing his score card. He still felt dizzy on the drive back to the hotel.
“We were just trying to make it to the course today and didn’t do a full warm-up,” said McNamara. “So it was, ‘beware of the sick golfer.’ I didn’t have a ton of energy and maybe that helped because I wasn’t so over-hyped. Eventually I got warmed up and found the groove. I focused on staying hydrated instead of focusing on the golf.”
Dalinka’s goals were just making match play after failing to do so in his five previous USGA starts, including three U.S. Amateurs – one of which came here in Colorado seven years ago. A 30-foot birdie putt on the 582-yard, par-5 16th punctuated the round.
“I just tried to stay calm,” said Dalinka, a University of North Carolina graduate who now works in finance. “My dad is on the bag and he has kept me level-headed. I made a couple of mental mistakes not calculating the altitude, which cost me two bogeys. I rolled a lot of putts in and got lucky.”
Eibner, a 2013 graduate of East Carolina University, also had the experience of playing the 2012 U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills and CommonGround. His round included a 201-yard, 7-iron approach to 4 feet to set up an eagle on the par-5 seventh hole and a 16-foot downhill birdie on the 467-yard, par-4 18th hole.
“Honestly, I haven’t been playing a lot,” said Eibner. “Last week was my club championship at Trinity Forest and it’s a match-play deal so that prepared me. I haven’t played a whole lot, tournament-wise. My swing is pretty simple, I know what’s going on with it. I am a ball-striker, so if I am hitting well, I am going to play well. This is all about holing putts.”
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.
View Complete Tournament Information