The USGA will play one of its national championships in metro Atlanta in October, as Capital City Club’s Crabapple course will host the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship Oct. 7-12.
The tournament, which will also include nearby Atlanta National for its two stroke play qualifying rounds, provides a national championship for golfers age 25 and older, who have been largely cut out from for competing for a U.S. Amateur title by the modern domination of the event by top college players.
This will be the third major event played at Capital City Club’s Crabapple course, the first two being a World Golf Championship tournament in 2003 and the NCAA Championship in 2013. Atlanta National is the host of an LPGA-affiliated Symetra Tour event that will return for a third year next spring with a new title sponsor.
Both courses are located in the northern suburbs of the metro Atlanta area along the Fulton/Cherokee border.
It is also the third time a Georgia course has hosted the USGA Mid-Am, which was first played in 1981. Atlanta Athletic Club was the host in 1984 and Sea Island Golf Club was the site of the championship in 2004.
Since 2000, the USGA has played two U.S. Amateurs in the Atlanta area (2001 at East Lake, 2014 at Atlanta Athletic Club), along with the 2005 Women’s Amateur (Settindown Creek) and the 2001 Walker Cup (Ocean Forest) on Sea Island.
The tournament field will consist of 264 players, most of whom advanced from local qualifiers around the country. A total of 24 players with Georgia ties will be in the field, and will play stroke play qualifying rounds Oct. 7-8, one each at the Crabapple course and Atlanta National, with the top 64 advancing to match play.
The first round of match play will be contested on Oct. 9 at the Crabapple course, with the second and third rounds played on Oct. 10 and the quarterfinals and semifinals on Oct. 11. The championship match is scheduled for Oct. 12, with the winner receiving an invitation to the 2018 Masters.
The tournament’s defending champion is Californian Stewart Hagestad, who used a remarkable comeback last year to win after being 4-down with five holes to play. Hagestad birdied four of his last five holes to win 1-up over former U.S. Mid-Am Scott Harvey, and went on to become the first Mid-Amateur champion to make the cut in the Masters.
Georgia golfers won the Mid-Amateur title four times between 1990 and 2005, including back-to-back victories in 1990 and ’91 by Macon’s Jim Stuart. Atlanta’s Danny Yates won in 1992 and McDonough’s Dave Womack was the 2006 champion, winning in the finals against Georgia native Ryan Hybl. The year before, Gainesville’s Carlton Forrester lost in the championship match.
Leading the way among the Georgia golfers in the field is Augusta’s John Engler, who played on the PGA Tour for one year before suffering a serious foot injury in a car accident, which resulted in him giving up his pro career and retaining his amateur status.
Engler has been a frequent qualifier in recent Mid-Amateurs, with his best showing coming in 2011, when he reached the semifinals of match play in Houston. Engler, who played his college golf at Clemson, also made it to the third round in 2013 in Birmingham and lost in the second round to eventual champion Nathan Smith in 2010 after defeating another former champion in the first round.
He qualified for this year’s Mid-Amateur by tying for second in a local qualifier in Amelia Island, Fla., with a 69 and surviving a 4-for-3 playoff. Savannah’s Bo Bradford also shot 69 and made it through the playoff to qualify, while Atlanta’s Chase Baldwin was the medalist with a 67.
Most of the Georgians in the field qualified at sites outside the state. William Farrer of Mt. Berry, the golf coach at Berry College, tied for second at 70 in a qualifier in Chattanooga, with Tennessee resident Ryan Dent, who attended college at the U. of Georgia, the medalist with a 69. Albany native Nick Cohen, also a current Tennessee resident, survived a multi-player playoff for the final spot.
Matt Jackson of Waynesboro qualified in Camden, S.C., along with Atlanta native John Eades, who lives in Charlotte.
Matt Robbins of Cumming shot 68 to tie for second in Montgomery, Ala. Robbins attended high school at Milton, which is right down the road from both the Crabapple course and Atlanta National.
Georgia natives Derek Camp (Macon) and Drew Downs (Hinesville), who now live in Florida, qualified in Winter Haven, Fla., and Atlanta native Michael Rogoff, who lives in south Florida, shared medalist honors in Palm Beach Gardens.
David Watts, who played his high school golf in Chatsworth and lives in Tennessee, was the co-medalist in Mason, Ohio.
Nine Georgians were among 11 to advance at the two qualifiers played in the Atlanta area. Atlanta residents swept all four available spots at the Capital City Club’s Brookhaven course, with Capital City Club member Brendan Williams sharing medalist honors at 69 with Bo Burdette. Jason Coolik and Matthew Swan shot 70 and both advanced in a playoff, which included Covington’s Taylor Smith, the first alternate.
Byron Lay of Alpharetta was the medalist at Rivermont with a 67, followed by Mark Harrell of Lookout Mountain. Harrell, a Hazlehurst native who played his college golf at Alabama and is one of many former mini-tour pros in the field, was next at 68. Harrell advanced to the second round of match play in 2015, one of four Georgians to advance past the first round that year.
Tyler Gruca, like Robbins a former golfer at Milton HS who played his college golf at Georgia State, shot 69 to qualify, with Atlanta’s Robert Sheats and Marietta’s Tommy Caswell qualifying with scores of 71.
Former U.S. Senior Amateur champion Doug Hanzel of Savannah and Statesboro’s Joseph Deraney were exempt from qualifying thanks to their ranking among the world’s top 400 amateurs. Hanzel advanced to match play in the Mid-Am in both 2009 and ’12.