- USGA photo
Like many mid-amateurs who have opted out of chasing a professional golf career, Stephen Behr
has set his goals around USGA championships and Augusta National.
“Even in college, people always said, ‘You don’t plan on going professional?’” said Behr to AmateurGolf.com after earning medalist honors in the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “I was like, ‘No, I’m going to win the [U.S.] Mid-Am and play the Masters.’ So I’ve had this vision for a while.”
Related: Behr reps Class of '11 at U.S. Mid-Am with stroke-play medal
The 27-year-old Behr was a Byron Nelson Award winner
at Clemson University, but he never pursued pro golf, instead becoming a risk analyst for Ernst & Young, and now a sales support associate for SAP in Atlanta.
Though he missed out on a chance to realize his vision this year -- the U.S. Mid-Amateur was cancelled in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic -- Behr did enough in an altered 2020 season to win the AmateurGolf.com Mid-Amateur Player of the Year points race.
The highlight of Behr's year was a win in the Birmingham National Invitational
(NIT), taking control of the elite mid-amateur event with a second-round 68 and winning by four shots.
For Behr, it was a bit of a rebound from the previous week, when he took the 54-hole lead (outplaying U.S. Amateur champion Tyler Strafaci in round 3) at the Azalea Invitational in Charleston, S.C., only to shoot 75 and finish third. Still, it was an impressive result against a top field of amateurs and collegians, several of whom in their last tune-up for a rescheduled fall Masters.
Behr did get a chance to compete against professionals, parlaying a sponsor exemption (as a member of the host club, The Golf Club of Georgia) into a 13-under-par, 6th-place finish at the PGA Tour LOCALiQ Series' Alpharetta Classic. The LOCALiQ Series was a marriage of PGA Tour Canada, PGA Tour Latinoamérica and PGA Tour China and was created in response to the pandemic.
| | Final Mid-Amateur Ranking, 2020
His performance in Alpharetta granted him an exemption into the next LOCALiQ Series event, and he made the cut there as well, finishing T42 at the Championship at Echelon.
His T14 finish against a top amateur field at the Golf Club of Georgia Amateur previewed the success he would have in the next couple of weeks at the Azalea and NIT.
Behr also had a run of success in Georgia state championships, coming in 9th at the Georgia Amateur, 2nd at the Georgia Mid-Amateur, and 3rd at the Georgia Four-Ball.
The U.S. Mid-Amateur returns to the calendar in 2021, at Sankaty Head Golf Club. Think Behr have that circled on his calendar? He's already got 2022 penciled in:
The pandemic altered the major amateur and mid-amateur landscape significantly in 2020, with many tournaments falling off of the calendar. While some players limited their schedules, those who were able to travel saw opportunity to boost their ranking. Matthew McClean, a 27-year-old optometrist from Northern Ireland, earned points in Ireland, England, Spain, and South Africa en route to finishing second in the points standings.
Caolan Rafferty of Ireland, a part of this week's winning International Palmer Cup team
, finished third in the standings for the second-straight year.
2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Lukas Michel of Australia was fourth, with the player he beat in the final match, Joseph Deraney, in fifth.
Last year's Mid-Amateur Player of the Year
, Stewart Hagestad, finshed 10th in the standings in 2020.