U.S. Mid-Am: Merkulov medalist, Brown takes 64th spot with eagle
Harvin Groft (right) is making the most of his return to competitive golf this week. (USGA)
Harvin Groft (right) is making the most of his return to competitive golf this week. (USGA)

The Round of 64 got underway on Monday in the fog-delayed 40th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Sankaty Head Golf Club, a windy day highlighted by the winnowing of the field to 64 players, with a dramatic eagle hole-out earning Hayes Brown, of Charlotte, N.C., the final spot in the match-play bracket.

The championship record 9-under-par performance by Yaroslav Merkulov, 29, of Rochester, N.Y., from Sunday held up as more than half of the 264-player field completed stroke play on Monday at Sankaty Head and co-host Miacomet Golf Course. Garrett Rank, 34, of Canada, an NHL referee and the runner-up in this championship in 2012, and Harvin Groft, 36, of Berwick, Maine, both posted 36-hole totals of 7-under 133 to earn the No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively.

The field was trimmed on Monday afternoon to 64 with a 13-for-7 playoff that took place on the par-4 10th hole and the par-4 15th hole. Six players parred No. 10 to earn spots, while one was eliminated with a double bogey, and six were left to battle for the No. 64 spot. Brown spun a 58-degree wedge shot back into the hole from 96 yards to make an eagle on the 411-yard 15th hole and earn a matchup with No. 1 seed Merkulov. Merkulov led their match, 2 up, through seven holes when play was suspended for the day at 6:17 p.m. EDT.

Groft, the No. 3 seed, a 2008 graduate of Penn State University, is making the most of return to the game after nearly a 10-year hiatus. The father of four, including a 4-week-old son, helps raise his family during the school year while his wife, Andrea, teaches high school Spanish. Groft also raises vegetables as part of an initiative begun by local chefs and farmers called the Heirloom Harvest Project, an unusual occupation for this field of competitive players.

“My wife is at home in the summer, which frees me up a little to play golf and she’s super-supportive of it,” said Groft, who returned to competition in the 2016 New Hampshire Mid-Amateur after a few months of hitting balls twice a week at a self-serve driving range near his home. “It was such a long break that I didn’t know where my game was, how it compared at a national level.”

Groft got a barometer for his performance when he qualified for the 2018 U.S. Mid-Amateur and missed the cut by just a few strokes. Most recently, he has been working on his mental approach with coach Scott Hacker, of Portsmouth, N.H.

“He’s helped me a lot with staying present, just enjoying the day and the challenge of each shot,” said Groft. “I’m a much better golfer mentally than I was back in college.”

Three Round-of-64 matches concluded on Monday, with No. 17 Richard “Skip” Berkmeyer, of St. Louis, Mo.; No. 33 Sam Straka, of Valdosta, Ga., and No. 49 Josh Nichols, of Morrisville, N.C., earning victories. Nichols was the runner-up in this championship in 2017 at the Capital City Club, in Atlanta, Ga.

What’s Next

The extensive fog delays that affected this championship over the weekend prompted a revised schedule that will see a champion raising the trophy one day later than expected. The Round of 64 will continue on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. EDT, with 20 matches in progress and nine yet to start. The Round of 32 will begin at 11 a.m. The Round of 16 and quarterfinals will be contested on Wednesday, with the semifinals (7:30 a.m.) and the first 18 holes of the championship match (12:45 p.m.) scheduled for Thursday. The final 18 holes of the championship match will be played on Friday, starting at 7:30 a.m.

Results: U.S. Mid-Amateur
WinCAStewart HagestadNewport Beach, CA1000
Runner-upNJMark CostanzaMorristown, NJ700
SemifinalsNCHayes BrownCharlotte, NC500
SemifinalsMANick MaccarioWaltham, MA500
QuarterfinalsTXColby HarwellSan Antonio, TX400

View full results for U.S. Mid-Amateur

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 players begin the championship with two rounds of sroke play qualifying held at two courses, after which the low 64 (with a playoff if necessary to get the exact number) advance to single elimination match play.

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