Why is Pine Valley such a good match play course? Aside from the fact that any of the 18 holes would probably be the best hole on your home course, there is the issue of its relentless difficulty.
Perhaps more than any other course, with potential disaster lurking around every corner, there is a comfort in match play of knowing that the worst that can happen is a simple loss of hole. Not so in stroke play, where any error can potentially wreck a scorecard.
For the players at the 96th Crump Cup, that feeling is surely amplified. The 36-hole stroke play can be a survival test, and now that the tournament heads to match play, the field can (maybe) breathe a sigh of relief now that their opponent will be a single player.
Pine Valley won the first two rounds, allowing no under-par rounds in either division despite reasonable weather conditions. But Jeronimo Esteve (Windermere, Fla.) beat the field in other ways, achieving a Crump Cup rarity -- shooting the low round in each of the stroke play rounds. After opening with an even-par 70 that gave him a one-shot lead, the 2021 Carlton Woods Invitational champion shot a 1-over 71, the low round of the day by two, to earn medalist honors by four shots.
Esteve's reward for his medal-earning performance is a first-round match-up with three-time champion Michael Muehr (McLean, Va.), who won the last time the Crump was played in 2019. Despite struggling to a 78 in round two, Muehr was able to run his streak of making the championship bracket to a remarkable nine years.
Skip Berkmeyer (Chesterfield, Mo.), the 2009 champion who made the semifinals in 2019, earned the #2 match play seed with rounds of 71-74.
The top 16 who made the championship bracket includes two U.S. Mid-Amateur champions: Stewart Hagestad (Newport Beach, Calif.) and Kevin Marsh (Las Vegas, Nev.). Also contending for the Crump Cup title will be Michael Brown (Maple Shade, N.J.), who earlier this summer had the distinction of holding three state amateur titles at once.
in addition to Marsh (2012), past Crump Cup runners-up who will get another chance to lift the trophy include Brad Nurski (2018, St. Joseph, Mo.) and John Sawin (2016, Pebble Beach, Calif.)
Perhaps the most interesting first-round match-up will be Dennis Bull (Norwalk, Iowa) versus Andrew Price (Lake Bluff, Ill.). The two recently qualified for the 2022 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball together but will face each other at Pine Valley.
One of the most entertaining and tense moments in Crump Cup week is the playoff to determine the final spot(s) in the championship match play bracket. This year, however, 16 players shot 150 or better and so no playoff was necessary.
Coming off a long-awaited win at the U.S. Senior Amateur, Gene Elliott (W. Des Moines, Iowa) continued his good play by taking medalist honors in the Senior Division with rounds of 73-72. Michael Kelley matched Elliott at 5-over 145, but the two-time defending champion Elliott will take #1 seed into match play.
Elliott will next face two-time Walker Cupper Marty West (Rockville, Md.), who was the story on day one, beating his age by three shots with an even-par 70.
Related: Esteve leads the Crump Cup, but West steals the show
Also advancing is a familiar face to both the Crump Cup and Elliott. Mike McCoy (Norwalk, Iowa), a four-time Crump Cup champion, shot rounds of 74-73 in his attempt to become only the fifth player (along with Elliott) to win the open division and the senior division in the tournament's 96-year history. Elliott and McCoy have been close friends, teammates and opponents throughout the years, and most recently faced each other during Elliott's run to the U.S. Senior Amateur at the Country Club of Detroit. If both Elliott and McCoy win their first-round matches, they will face each other again.
Eight players shot 150 or better to make the Championship Flight, and like the mid-amateurs, no playoff was needed.
In all, a total of 64 players have advanced to match play -- three flights of 16 mid-amateurs and two flights of 8 seniors. Two rounds of match play will be played on Saturday, with the championship matches in all flights scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
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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