Yaroslav Merkulov (66) threatened the 18-hole U.S. Mid-Am scoring mark at Miacomet G.C. (USGA)
, 42, of Orchard Park, N.Y., set the course record with a 5-under-par 65 on Saturday at stroke play co-host Miacomet Golf Course in the first round of stroke play for the 40th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Sankaty Head Golf Club on Nantucket Island.
The round was beset by fog delays, most of them at Sankaty Head on the island’s eastern edge, where play was suspended four times for more than five hours and was halted for the day at 5:11 p.m. EDT. Only 35 of the scheduled 132 players completed Round 1 on the Emerson Armstrong-designed layout that opened in 1921 in the village of Siasconset. Miacomet, about 8 miles away, had one brief delay for fog before play was suspended for the day at 5:50 p.m., with 27 of its 132 players still on the course.
For Nealon, the 65 was the round of a lifetime, four strokes better than his previous best. The three-time Buffalo District Golf Association Mid-Amateur champion had competed in just one previous USGA championship, the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur.
“I was surprised, honestly,” said Nealon, who capped his round with a 6-iron to 3 feet for an eagle 3 on the par-5 18th hole. “It’s very challenging, a lot of tough holes. It’s probably the first course record I have ever set. I struck the ball beautifully. It was just one of those rounds.”
Nealon finished one stroke ahead of three players, including a member of his group, Yaroslav Merkulov
, of Rochester, N.Y. Merkulov got to 7 under par for the day before three consecutive bogeys on holes 15-17. Also at 4-under 66 were Harvin Groft
, of Berwick, Maine; and Garrett Rank
, of Canada, an NHL referee and the runner-up in this championship in 2012.
“I like coming to events like this that place a premium on the driver; I feel like I’m a good driver of the ball,” said Rank, who made eight birdies against four bogeys at Sankaty Head. “There were a couple of mistakes that I would like to have back, but you can’t be too disappointed when you make eight birdies in a USGA championship.”
Three players were another stroke back at 3-under 67: Christian Sease
, of Mount Pleasant, S.C.; Luke Easterly
, of Sammamish, Wash.; and Andrew Paysse
, of Temple, Texas. Easterly finished birdie-birdie at Miacomet, while Sease, 27, and Paysse, 26, the brother-in-law of 2013 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Scottie Scheffler, both acquitted themselves well in their USGA championship debuts.
“I’ve tried to qualify between the Junior, the Amateur and this about seven times,” said Paysse, who played at Texas A&M and briefly competed professionally on PGA Tour Canada. “I’ve been first alternate twice for the U.S. Amateur and once in the Junior, and I’ve caddied for my little brother William [a senior at Texas A&M] in the U.S. Am once. I was really happy to get to come out here and do it.”
Round 1 will resume at both Sankaty Head and Miacomet at 7 a.m. EDT on Sunday. Round 2 is scheduled to begin at 11:55 a.m. at Miacomet with the morning wave of players. The afternoon wave at Miacomet is scheduled to start at 4:30 p.m. Round 2 will begin at 10:25 a.m. at Sankaty Head with the morning wave, while the afternoon wave is scheduled to begin at Sankaty Head at 2:55 p.m. Today’s suspensions of play make it a near-certainty that stroke play will spill over into Monday.
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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