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Sunday, September 11, 2016

Orlando heads local contingent in U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying at Stonewall

   WARWICK – When the dust finally cleared – and there was some dust blowing around with gusty winds and blessedly cooler temperatures replacing searing heat and humidity -- on Day 2 of qualifying for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship at Stonewall’s North Course and Old Course Sunday, only four players stood under par.
   And a cutoff for match play widely speculated in the 6- to 7-over-par ballpark ultimately went up to 8-over. And some lucky player who finished at 9-over will be the last one into the match-play bracket after 14 players go at it for the last spot beginning at 7:15 a.m. Monday.
   Four local players are in the field of 64 for Monday’s opening-round matches, led by Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Gregor Orlando, the medalist in a qualifier for this event held at the Cricket Club’s historic Wissahickon Course.  And two others are in the mix for that dawn shootout for the final match-play berth.
   First, let’s give some credit to the three co-medalists who got it around Tom Doak’s twin challenges in northwest Chester County in 2-under 138.
   One of them, Scott Harvey of Greensboro, N.C. carded a 2-over 72 on the 6,870-yard, par-70 Old Course Sunday. Harvey, the Mid-Amateur champion two years ago and a member of the 2015 U.S. Walker Cup team, becomes the first four-time qualifying medalist in tournament history. Three others had been three-time medalists, one of them local legend Jay Sigel, the Aronimink Golf Club member who compiled one of the greatest amateur records in the history of the game before finding success on the Champions Tour.
   Harvey was joined by Michael Muehr of Potomoc Falls, Va., who had one of the three sub-par rounds recorded Sunday, a 2-under 68 at the 6,711-yard, par-70 North Course, and Thomas Werkmeister of Grandville, Mich., who matched par on the North with a 70 after posting one of just two sub-par rounds at the Old Course Saturday, a 2-under 68.
   Muehr has made match play five of the six times he’s teed it up in the U.S. Mid-Am and reached the semifinals in 2011.
   The only other player to finish under par in qualifying was Derek Busby of Ruston, La., who added a 2-over 72 at the Old Course Sunday to his opening-round 67 at the North Course for a 1-under 139 total.
   Orlando had the best finish among the large local contingent, adding a 74 at the Old Course to his opening-round 71 at the North for a 5-over 145 total that left him in a tie for 23rd. 
   Orlando got off to a tough start with bogeys at two, three and four before righting the ship with a birdie at the par-3 fifth. He then showed great patience by rattling off nine straight pars. He birdied the tough par-3 15th before making a bogey at 16 and a double bogey at the par-3 17th.
   He’ll take on Bradley Lane of Lawrence, Kan. at 9 a.m. Monday.
   Three other locals finished comfortably inside the cutoff for match play in a tie for 45th at 7-over 147, including Orlando’s fellow Cricket Club member John Brennan, a social studies teacher at Spring-Ford High School.
   Brennan had put himself in good position to earn a match-play berth with a 1-under 69 at the North Course Saturday. He struggled early in Sunday’s round at the Old Course, making double bogeys at the fourth, sixth and ninth holes. After a bogey at the par-5 11th, Brennan stopped the bleeding with a birdie at the 14th before making back-to-back bogeys at 16 and 17. Still, his 78 was more than good enough to get him into the match-play bracket.
   Brennan drew a high-noon match Monday with Dan Sullivan of Pasadena, Calif.
   Also at 147 was three-time BMW Philadelphia Amateur champion Michael McDermott, who carded a steady 2-over 72 at the North Course after opening with an adventurous 75 at the Old Course.  Playing in his 16th USGA event and eighth U.S. Mid-Am, McDermott’s experience showed Sunday.
   I was looping on the other side of the North at the same time as McDermott was playing Sunday and the winds, although they backed off as the day went on, were tricky. And some of the pins were really tough, the ones at seven and 17 come quickly to mind.
   McDermott, the co-medalist in a Mid-Am qualifier at Llanerch Country Club, birdied the first and the last and in between made bogeys at two, nine, 13 and 15. He’ll take on Joseph Ida of Overland Park, Kan. at 10:40 a.m. Monday.
   Yardley Country Club bomber Christopher Ault was the third local player in that group at 147. He added a 76 at the Old Course Sunday to his solid 71 at the North Saturday. Ault started his round with his only birdie of the day at the par-5 first. He made a bogey at two, a double bogey at the treacherous fourth and bogeys at six, 14, 15 and 17.
   It earned him an opening-round date with Kevin O’Connell of Raleigh, N.C. at 1:20 p.m. Monday.
   Saucon Valley Country Club’s Matthew Mattare, the GAP Middle-Amateur champion who was the co-medalist with McDermott at Llanerch, is in the group of 14 players who will vie for that last ticket to match play Monday morning. Mattare had a 73 at the North Course after opening with a 76 at the Old Course.
   Also in that group in the playoff is Wyomissing’s Nathan Sutherland, a Holy Name product who added a 74 at the North Course to the 75 he posted Saturday at the Old Course.
   DuPont Country Club’s Matthew Finger, the runnerup to Mattare in the GAP Middle-Amateur, had an 81 at the Old Course to finish at 152. Michael McDermott’s brother Brian was another shot back at 153, despite a solid 74 at the Old Course Sunday.
   Sean Seese, like the McDermott brothers a Saint Joseph’s product, had a 78 at the North Course Sunday for a 158 total. Aronimink’s Dan Bernard, a former Malvern Prep standout, had an 82 at the North Course for a 160 total. Andy Latkowski, the third member of the Cricket Club trio in the field, didn’t fare as well as his clubmates as he posted an 85 at the Old Course for a 164 total.
   LedgeRock Golf Club’s Chip Lutz, who will defend his U.S. Senior Amateur title later this month at Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis, was two shots out of the playoff for match play after adding a 76 at the North Course to his opening-round 75 at the Old Course.
   He was joined at that figure by Pittsburgh’s Nathan Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who had a 75 at the Old Course Sunday. Smith was victimized, like so many others at the Old Course, by the 395-yard, par-4 fourth, where he took a triple-bogey 7.
   Two other players who reached Stonewall via the Cricket Club qualifier, Chris Cassetta of Winston-Salem, N.C. and Brian Payne of Flossmoor, Ill., failed to reach match play. Cassetta had a 78 at the Old Course for a 152 total while Payne had a 76 at the North Course for a 154 total.
   Eric Lefante, a former Rutgers standout out of Florham Park, N.J. who qualified at Llanerch, had an 82 at the Old Course for a 159 total.
   The man whose bag I got to carry for the last four days at Stonewall, Michael Mitani of Irvine, Calif., had an 80 at the North Course after an 81 at the Old Course Saturday for a 161 total. It was a lot of work and it was hot for two practice rounds and Saturday’s first round of qualifying and it was frustrating to see a lot of five-footers for par slide by the hole, but Mitani never lost his composure and competed right to the end.
   Getting a front-row seat to golf at that level is fascinating, enlightening, just a great all-around experience. My game was never going to get me there,  but caddying for a player of Mitani’s ability is a real treat.
   One of our practice-round partners, Cameron Tennant, a former San Diego State standout out of Woodland Hills, Calif., did make match play with a solid 1-over 71 at the North Course to finish in that group tied for 45th at 147. The guy is long.
   One of our playing partners Saturday and Sunday, Andrew Rhodes of Westfield, Ind. ended up missing the playoff for that final match-play berth by one shot. He really battled hard Sunday, posting a 3-over 73 for a 10-over 150 total.
   The plan is to turn in my caddy bib for a notepad and continue to post some live blogs from Stonewall for the rest of the week, but if somebody needs a looper Monday, I’ll be ready.

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