Courtesy of USGA
Hayes Brown, 32, of Charlotte, N.C., who got his spot in the match-play bracket of the 40th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship by holing out a 95-yard wedge shot, prevailed in two matches on Tuesday at Sankaty Head Golf Club, including a 1-up victory over No. 1-seeded Yaroslav Merkulov, of Rochester, N.Y.
Brown’s eagle 2 on the second hole of a playoff (the par-4 15th) prevailed in a 6-for-1 battle for the last spot in the draw on Monday afternoon, and he began his Round-of-64 match with Merkulov, 29, later in the afternoon. When play was halted by darkness after seven holes, Merkulov led, 2 up.
“I think my energy level was a little too high after just sneaking into the match-play field,” admitted Brown, who played at Wofford College. “I feel like I kind of gave away some holes, and I was glad we had darkness because I was a little emotionally exhausted.”
Merkulov took a 3-up lead through 12 holes on Tuesday morning, but Brown rallied to tie the match with back-to-back birdies, then a winning par on No. 15. His birdie 4 on the 544-yard 17th hole proved to be the difference.
“Match play is fickle,” said Merkulov, a former Duke University golfer who set the championship stroke-play scoring mark with a 36-hole total of 9-under 131. “I played well, shot 1 under, and the conditions aren’t easy. He made a really good birdie on 13 when he kind of had his back against the wall, then I missed three 6-footers in a row, and that’s all she wrote.”
Brown went on to roll past No. 33 seed Sam Straka, of Valdosta, Ga., 5 and 4, on Tuesday afternoon to set up a match with No. 17 seed Richard “Skip” Berkmeyer, of St. Louis, Mo., at 7:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday in the Round of 16. Berkmeyer, 47, edged Josh Nichols, of Morrisville, N.C., the runner-up in this championship in 2017, in 20 holes on Tuesday afternoon.
Garrett Rank, 34, of Canada, who is entering his fifth season as an NHL referee next week, is the only one of the top 12 seeds to reach the Round of 16. Rank made three straight birdies to close out 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links runner-up Cody Paladino, of West Hartford, Conn., 2 and 1, in the morning, then posted a 5-and-3 win over Matthew Galloway, of Tampa, Fla., in the afternoon.
“I’ve played the back nine well all week,” said Rank, the runner-up to Nathan Smith in the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “I made six birdies on the back nine in stroke play, and I made four birdies in my match this morning. I just like the back nine. I hit some good shots, made a couple putts and hung in there on the few holes where I kind of got out of position.”
Stewart Hagestad, 30, the 2016 champion and the No. 13 seed, earned a 4-and-2 win over Brett Young, of Bethel Park, Pa., in the morning, then rode six birdies to a 5-and-4 victory over 2015 U.S. Mid-Am runner-up Marc Dull, of Winter Haven, Fla., 5 and 4, in the afternoon.
Drew Kittleson, 32, the runner-up in the 2008 U.S. Amateur; Brad Nurski, 42, of St. Joseph, Mo., the runner-up in this championship in 2014; and Nick Maccario, 29, of Haverhill, Mass., the lone player from the host state to reach match play, were among those to advance to the Round of 16.
No. 53 seed Doug Hanzel, of Savannah, Ga., the oldest player in the field at 64, won his morning match, 3 and 2, over Jimmy Ellis, of Venezia, Pa., but the 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur champion was ousted, 2 and 1, in the afternoon by No. 21 seed Christian Sease, 27, of Mount Pleasant, S.C. Sease’s girlfriend, Ashley Sloup, competed in the 2021 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur in Bluffton, S.C., which is being played concurrently with this championship. Sloup lost in the Round of 64 on Monday.
The Round of 16 will begin at 7:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, and the quarterfinals are scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. The semifinal round will be played on Thursday morning, beginning at 7:30 a.m., and the first 18 holes of the 36-hole final is scheduled to begin at 12:45 p.m. The second 18 of the final will be played on Friday, starting at 7:30 a.m. The championship was pushed to a Friday finish by more than five hours of fog delays during Saturday’s first round of stroke play.