EAST NANTMEAL – Scott Harvey arrived at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall as one of the favorites, a winner of the event two years ago, a member of the U.S. Walker Cup team in 2015.
But nobody hands you anything at an event like this. And then there’s the golf course. Tom Doak’s twin tests in what used to be Chester County farmland present challenges from the minute you tee off at No. 1 until the last putt on the 18th hole – and sometimes beyond.
But Harvey, a 38-year-old property manager from Greensboro, N.C., hasn’t missed a beat. He got a piece of the medalist honors in qualifying to become the first four-time medalist in the history of the Mid-Amateur. And when he lagged his 30-foot birdie putt to gimme range on the par-3 ninth hole that was playing its maximum length Wednesday, he had survived another test, outlasting Dan Sullivan, a gritty 49-year-old real estate lender from Pasadena, Calif., in 19 holes over the 6,870-yard, par-70 Old Course layout to advance to the final.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Harvey said on the ninth green moments after clinching a hard-fought semifinal match over Sullivan, his fourth match-play win in about 36 hours. “It’s what you come here for and the prize is worth it.”
Harvey will meet 25-year-old financial analyst Stewart Hagestad, who claimed a 4 and 2 win over Scott Strickland in the other semifinal, in Thursday’s scheduled 36-hole final, which will start on the North Course at 7:45 a.m. Earlier in the day, Hagestad ousted Merion Golf Club’s Michael McDermott, 2-up, in a quarterfinal match.
Harvey was able to save a little energy on a hot day at the Old Course by finishing off David May of Auburn, N.Y. in 15 holes with a 4 and 3 quarterfinal victory Wednesday morning. Harvey buried May by winning five holes in a seven-hole stretch from the fifth through the 11th.
That left him with a semifinal match against Sullivan, who had reached the semifinals with a 2 and 1 win over Josh Irving of Dallas in his quarterfinal match. Harvey also had the Stonewall caddyshack in his corner with the last surviving Stonewall caddy, Rick Tokonitz, on the bag.
Harvey got the jump in the match by winning the par-5 first with a birdie and the par-4 second with a par. But Sullivan cut the deficit in half at the par-4 fourth when he stuck his approach to two feet for a birdie.
“I wasn’t surprised to lose at four because I think I’ve lost that hole in every match,” said Harvey.
Harvey’s tee shot at the par-3 fifth found the creek to the right of the green and, just like that, his two-hole lead was gone.
But he started the build the lead again. A wayward drive by Sullivan gave Harvey the eighth. He held onto the lead when he buried a 35-foot putt for what had looked like an unlikely par at the 10th.
A brilliant approach to four feet at the par-5 11th led to a birdie and he was 2-up. And when his approach out of the right rough on the par-4 12th caught the flag and dropped four feet from the cup, it looked like he was on the verge of blowing the match open.
But he missed the birdie try and the snap-hooked his drive on the 13th and Sullivan was back within one.
“I think I lost a little energy when that putt (on 12) didn’t go in,” Harvey said. “And the tee shot on 13 was just a tired, can’t-move-my-legs snap hook.”
A poor approach on 16 by Harvey and a clutch two-putt par by Sullivan sent the match to the 17th tee all even. Both players missed the par-3 17th in the front bunker and made outstanding up-and-downs.
At the par-4 18th, Sullivan’s ball burrowed itself into the fescue at the top of one of the bunkers in front of the green. So Harvey, coming out of the right rough, chose to chop his approach to the fairway to the left of the green.
Harvey’s chip left him with a nine-foot putt for par. Sullivan, meanwhile, barely advanced his third shot and was still short. He chipped again and got it close for bogey. Harvey would have a chance to end it on the 18th, but he left the potential winning putt short.
“I drew the worst lie I’ve had all week in the rough,” Harvey said. “I hit a decent chip there, but it ran away a little. And the putt, I read it properly, I just left it short.”
Sudden death has started on the first hole all week, but this one started on the par-3 ninth, probably because the Fox cameras were still in place there. Those cameras got to record one more solid swing by Harvey, while Sullivan’s tee shot found the right front bunker, a tough place from which to make par.
And he could not. Harvey’s two-putt from 30 feet away was good enough to earn him a date with Hagestad in the final. Hagestad is a former college standout at Southern California. The native of Newport Beach, Calif. moved to New York this summer and won the Metropolitan Golf Association amateur championship.
Harvey and Hagestad have run into each twice this summer. Harvey defeated Hagestad in a playoff for the title in the George C. Thomas Invitational at Los Angeles Country Club in June. And both were in the 23-for-eight playoff to make match play in the U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club. Harvey advanced and Hagestad did not.
“He’s young and in shape, I know that,” Harvey said. “I’ve talked to him and he’s a nice guy. We’ve tangled a couple of times and I’ve got him, but this is the one I think we both want the most.
“I’m pretty proud of myself for making it back to the final here. It’s tough here. There are a lot of good players and it’s a difficult test, mentally and physically.”
Hagestad rallied after losing the first three holes to the 41-year-old McDermott in the morning. But just when it looked like the Haverford High and Saint Joseph’s product was going to keep his stirring run going all the way to the semifinals, McDermott ran out of steam.
Hagestad won four of the next six holes, drawing even by taking the par-3 ninth with a bogey. When McDermott missed a short par putt on the par-4 13th, he was 1-down. And that’s the way it stayed until the 18th when McDermott, needing birdie to extend the match, left his approach in the rough just over a greenside bunker.
“I think I only hit three fairways or so all day,” said McDermott, who added a third BMW Philadelphia Amateur title to his resume on his home course, Merion Golf Club’s historic East Course, earlier this summer. “And that’s just not going to get it done at this point in a national championship.
“I struggled with my driver sort of all week, but I was able to get it done around a challenging tee game. But this one, I couldn’t do it, even with the lead, it was just too much trouble for me.”
McDermott had his eyes on the Masters invitation and 10-year U.S. Mid-Amateur exemption that goes to the champion, but he was OK with the consolation prize for making it the quarterfinals. He can make hotel reservations in Atlanta for the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship Oct. 7 to 12 at the Capital Golf Club’s Crabapple Course.
“I was trying not to be content with that coming into today,” McDermott said. “I had a lot of things on the line today, just in general. You want to win the match. But that’s certainly one thing. I can work one more day next year in late August.”
A victory for Harvey would earn him a likely invitation to the Masters next spring. And it might make his case a little stronger for a return invitation to the U.S. Walker Cup team. He played in the 2015 Walker Cup Match, a U.S. loss at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England.
“It was a great experience,” Harvey said as he walked away from the ninth green, his 34th of the day, early Wednesday evening. “You’re playing with guys like Bryson DeChambeau and Beau Hossler, future superstars of the game. It’s at Los Angeles Country Club next year. It would be great to be there.”