By Ron Balicki, Golfweek
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – George Zahringer's strategy worked.
Zahringer shot 2-over 73 at Conway Farms Golf Club before a 1-over 72 at Knollwood Club earlier this week for a 145 total to advance to the 64-player match-play field for this week's U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Or so it seemed, at least.
Shortly thereafter, Zahringer, the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur champ, informed USGA officials that he was withdrawing from the competition.
His reason? Zahringer, 59, from New York, was scheduled to play in a U.S. Senior Amateur qualifier on Sept. 11 at Preakness Hills in Wayne, N.J.
“It was just one of those things,” said Zahringer, a member of the 2003 U.S. Walker Cup team. "Yes, there was a Senior Am qualifier last week, but it just wasn’t feasible for me time and schedule wise.”
Zahringer shot par-72 at Preakness Hills Country Club in Wayne, N.J., on Sept. 11 to tie for fourth place and advance to the USGA Senior Amateur on Sept. 29-Oct. 4 at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J.
He said the sites for year’s U.S. Senior Am and his qualifier had special meaning for him. He won the Metropolitan Golf Association’s Ike Tournament at Preakness and won the 1985 Met Open at Mountain Ridge.
But why, if Zahringer knew from the start that he was going to leave after the two stroke-play qualifying rounds, did he even show up for the Mid-Amateur?
“First of all, I was exempt (his last year for exemption from his 2002 victory),” he said. “Secondly, I wanted to try to win a medal (as qualifying medalist). Mostly, though, I haven't played much nationally and wanted to get in at least two rounds of competition at the national level. When the goal in mind is to get to Mountain Ridge (for U.S. Senior Am), I felt this was a great opportunity to see where my game is.”
In addition to winning the Mid-Am in 2002, Zahringer was a finalist in 2001 and knows about the grind to get that far, playing two matches each day for three consecutive days.
“It’s nice that people might think I could have done well (this year), but realistically it’s a lot to ask, especially when you’re almost 60 years old,” he said. “So when you add it all up and put all the cards on the table, I think this is the right decision for me.
“This might be my last Mid-Am, and I wanted to see how I would stack up. I feel not to come here at all as an exempt player would have been a mistake.”
And now, he has validated his choice by qualifying for the Senior Amateur.
ABOUT THE U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifying
The U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifier is open to all
with an index of 7.4 or lower who will be at least 55
years of age at the start of the championship. The
format is 18 holes of stroke play, with qualifying
scattered across the country.
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