Sometimes it just doesn't pay to be a medalist in a USGA championship event.
Just ask Mark Goetz, Tim Hogarth, Jennifer Peng, Rachel Kuehn and now, Yaroslav Merkulov, the U.S. Mid-Amateur medalist who was eliminated this morning by No. 64 seed Hayes Brown of Charlotte, NC, 1 up in the first round of match play at Sankaty Head.
Merkulov seemed to be cruising to the Round of 32 when match play raised its prickly head. The medalist was enjoying a 3-up lead after making a birdie on the par-3 12th hole when the match turned. Hayes won holes 13 and 14 with birdies and evened the match with a par on the 15th. After the players halved the 16th, Brown rolled in a birdie to win the par-5 17th hole to take a 1-up lead. The two players halved the 18th with pars and Hayes was onto the Round of 32 with a lucky horseshoe still draped around his neck.
On Monday, Brown emerged from a 6-for-1 playoff to earn the last spot in match play by spinning a 58-degree wedge shot back into the hole from 96 yards on the 411-yard 15th hole to set up a match with the No. 1 seed Merkulov.
Merkulov's early exist follows a recent trend players who have earned medalist honors in a USGA championship, only to make a quick exit in match play.
On Monday, Jennifer Peng, who set 18- and 36-hole championship scoring records of 66 and 136, respectively, to earn medalist honors at the U.S. Women's Mid-Amateur, was eliminated in the Round of 64 by her good friend, Aliea Clark, 1 up at Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton, SD.
Mark Goetz found out how precarious the No. 1 seed can be at the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont, when he fell to 64th-seed David Nyfjall in their Round of 64 match-up, 1 up.
It was at the U.S. Women's Amateur that medalist Rachel Kuehn was defeated by Marissa Wenzler, 1 up in the Round of 64 and less than a month ago, Tim Hogarth, who earned the top-seed at the U.S. Senior Amateur after matching the all-time 36-hole scoring record, was ousted by the 64th-seed Kory Frost in 21 holes at the Country Club of Detroit.
Off the USGA grid, Christian Banke claimed medalist honors at the prestigious California State Amateur after setting course records on consecutive days at The Preserve in Carmel, only to be sent packing by No. 32 seed Tommy Stephenson, 5 and 4, in the first round of match play.
Michael Thorbjornsen bucked the disturbing trend at the Western Amateur in July, winning the coveted title after taking medalist honors at Glen View Club outside of Chicago.
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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