Courtesy of USGA
, 29, of Rochester, N.Y., shot a 5-under-par 65 at Sankaty Head Golf Club on Sunday to complete 36 holes of stroke play in the 40th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at 9-under 131, breaking the championship record by one stroke. Merkulov’s round, combined with his 4-under 66 on stroke play co-host Miacomet Golf Course on Saturday, betters two players (Bert Atkinson in 1997 and Jeff Wilson in 2001) who shared the previous championship stroke-play record of 132.
Merkulov’s 65 on Sunday also matches the Sankaty Head competitive course record, held by five players, including Jimmy Ellis, who matched Merkulov on Sunday morning. After half of the 264-player championship field endured more than five hours of fog delays at Sankaty Head on Saturday, the 6,645-yard course on the eastern end of the island was bathed in sunshine for much of Sunday, though buffeted by winds that averaged 16 mph and gusted to nearly 25 mph. There was just one short delay for fog on Saturday at Miacomet, 8 miles away.
The suspensions of play on Saturday at Sankaty Head – along with a short Sunday delay caused by more than a half-inch of rain that fell in the early morning hours – meant that 42 players had yet to begin Round 2 of stroke play (all at Miacomet) when play was halted for the day on Sunday.
Merkulov was a bit frustrated with his play on Saturday, despite having shot a 4-under 66 in Round 1 at Miacomet.
“I had a nice discussion with my coach [Saturday] night, and that helped me regroup,” said the Duke University graduate, who was born in Smolensk, in western Russia. “The big thing today was staying committed to what you were trying to hit, whether you were trying to ride the wind or fight the wind, whatever it was, you have to commit to the shot. If you stray from that in this wind, good luck.”
Merkulov noted that two of his birdies came after he hit tee shots into the fescue, on the par-4 11th and the par-4 16th. “Another big thing is that I putted really well,” noted Merkulov, who reached the quarterfinals of the 2009 U.S. Junior (losing to Jordan Spieth) and the 2019 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “I had a lot of putts inside 10 feet that I played outside the hole, and I don’t remember missing one.”
Merkulov’s 9-under total was six strokes better than any of the nearly 120 players – just under half the field – who completed 36 holes on Sunday. Nathan Colson
, of Mequon, Wis.; Marc Engellenner
, of Rocklin, Calif.; and Jimmy Ellis
, of Venetia, Pa., all stood at 3-under 137, with Engellenner getting to 6 under for the day at Miacomet on Sunday before settling for a 4-under 66 on the 6,782-yard layout.
Among those who had not completed Round 2, Harvin Groft
of Berwick, Maine, was at 8 under through 11 holes at Sankaty Head, going out in 4-under 31 after a 66 at Miacomet on Saturday. Garrett Rank
, an NHL referee from Canada who was the runner-up in this championship in 2012, stood at 5 under through two holes at Miacomet after a 66 at Sankaty Head on Saturday that was highlighted by eight birdies.
Among those who have completed 36 holes, 2008 U.S. Amateur runner-up Drew Kittleson
, 32, of Scottsdale, Ariz., rebounded with a 3-under 67 at Sankaty Head on Sunday to finish at 1-under 139, in a group of five players that includes Zach Atkinson
, 39, of Colleyville, Texas, who shot 66 at Sankaty Head; and Marc Dull
, 35, of Winter Haven, Fla., a two-time USGA runner-up – in this championship in 2015 and in the 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball.
Round 2 will be completed on Monday on both courses, and once a potential playoff for the final spots in the 64-player bracket is completed at Sankaty Head, the Round of 64 will begin, with all match-play rounds contested at Sankaty Head. The championship is scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Thursday.
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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