(Windermere, Fla.) was the only player in the field to match par on Thursday, shooting a 70 to take a one-shot lead over Skip Berkmeyer
(Chesterfield, Mo.) after the first round of the 96th Crump Cup at Pine Valley Golf Club.
Esteve, who had a breakout win at the Carlton Woods Invitational earlier this year, birdied two of the toughest holes on the course, the par-4 first and the all world par-3 fifth. He followed with dropped shots at six and seven but parred every other hole for the low score of the day.
It was a warm and mostly overcast day at Pine Valley -- nothing that would overly threaten scoring – but once again Pine Valley demonstrated why it is a supreme championship test, allowing no red numbers in either the Mid-Amateur or Senior division.
Berkmeyer was one of only two other players who birdied the 1st hole, and he followed it with another on two. He would ultimate birdie three holes on the day and bogey four, resulting in a 1-over 71.
Michael Muehr (McLean, Va.), a three-time champion who is defending the title he won the last time the Crump was played in 2019, is in good position again after a 2-over 72, tied for third with Dennis Bull (Norwalk, Ia.) and Andrew Price (Lake Bluff, Ill.).
The group at 3-over 73 includes three U.S. Mid-Amateur champions -- Walker Cupper Stewart Hagestad (Newport Beach, Calif.), Kevin O’Connell (Cary, N.C.), and Kevin Marsh (Las Vegas, Nev.). Also in the group is Michael Brown (Maple Shade, N.J.), who earlier this summer had the distinction of holding three state amateur titles at once. After 36 holes of stroke play, the Mid-Amateur field will be split into match play brackets of 16 players. After the first round, an even 16 players are a 4-over 74 or better.
The round of the day in either division was turned in by two-time Walker Cupper Marty West (Rockville, Md.), who remarkably beat his age by three shots to take the first-round lead in the Senior Division. The 73-year-old posted an even-par 70 to lead Michael Kelley (Westerville, Ohio) and former U.S. Senior Amateur champion Chip Lutz (Reading, Pa.).
West is a Hall of Fame inductee in both the Maryland and Middle Atlantic Golf Associations, having won many titles in each and making 38 USGA championships including 19 U.S. Amateurs. Despite having two 6’s on the back nine, West birdied 16, 17, and 18, and was the only player in the division to birdie the par-3 fifth.
Gene Elliott (W. Des Moines, Ia.), who recently won his long-awaited USGA championship at the U.S. Senior Amateur, shot a 3-over 73 and is in good shape to make the championship match play bracket and make a run at a third-straight Crump Senior title. Four-time Crump Cup champion Mike McCoy (Norwalk, Ia.) shot a 74 and will try to join Elliott and become the fifth player to win the open division and the senior division in the tournament's 96-year history.
Eight players will make the championship match play bracket, and after round one the cutoff score is 5-over 75.
The tournament continues on Friday with round two of stroke play, with four rounds of match play scheduled for the weekend.
Related: The Crump Cup returns for its 96th playing at Pine Valley
ABOUT THE Crump Cup
The George A. Crump Memorial Tournament --
hotelier and course architect most famous for
Pine Valley -- is arguably the premier mid-
event in the United States. The invitational field
made of of top players from around the United
and the UK. The format for the four days is two
of stroke play qualifying, followed by four
match play. Players are flighted according to
qualifying position, and a separate Senior flight
includes three of those flights. Jay Sigel has won
event the most times, with nine victories
1975 and 1993.
Normally, the public is invited to attend the Sunday
final matches but that tradition has been suspended.
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