SEPT. 17, 2012
Good friends Sean Knapp (left) and
Nathan Smith faced each other in the
third round of the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS | Nathan
Smith became just the 15th person in
USGA history to win the same championship at least four times. The list
includes such greats as Jack Nicklaus,
Mickey Wright, Carol Semple Thompson and Bob Jones, for whom the Mid-Amateur trophy is named.
“Any time you can say that you’ve
done something that nobody else has,
no matter what it is – sports or life or
anything – it feels pretty surreal,” said
a clearly overwhelmed Smith after he
won. Smith had his father, Larry, on the
bag all week, as he did in his previous
three Mid-Amateur wins.
Rank is a cancer survivor and a hockey
official in the Ontario Hockey league.
A member of Golf Canada’s national
team, he turned 25 just three days prior
to the start of the championship. Not only
was he was vying to become the championship’s first foreign-born winner, he
was also trying to become the youngest
winner. He finished T4 in the stroke play
qualifying and easily won his first round
match over Eric Williams, 4 and 3.
It was his play in the second and
third rounds that had people talking.
He needed just 27 out of a possible 36
holes in two matches to advance to the
quarterfinals. In Tuesday morning’s
round of 32, Rank played 8-under par
for 12 holes – with the usual match-play concessions – in an 8-and- 6 victory
over Scott Harvey. This margin of victory tied for the fourth largest in championship history. His round of 16 match
was equally emphatic, as he eliminated
Matt Cohn, of San Francisco, 5 and 3.
Headed into his semifinal match with
Todd White, Rank had yet to see the final
two holes in match play. The well-spoken
young man classified himself as “a late
bloomer, golfwise,” and plans to turn
professional sometime in the future.
Knapp and Smith are good friends;
Knapp was Smith’s best man at his
wedding. They were teammates on the
2009 winning team at the U.S. State
Team Championship, and they will attempt to reprise that effort this week at
Galloway National GC in New Jersey.
Earlier this summer, Knapp was one
of two amateurs to play the weekend
at the U.S. Senior Open. He played the
third round with Tom Watson, but came
up short to Doug Hanzel in his bid for
and the Tennessee State Amateur as
well. He was playing in his 19th Mid-Amateur championship and his 47th overall
USGA Championship. He cited “luck” as
being an important part of his success.
“You just have to have that luck piece
with you,” he observed.
Like many of the competitors in the
field, he will represent his state this week
at the U.S. State Team Championship.
seniors age 55 and over, including the
defending Mid-Amateur champion,
Randal Lewis. Of this group, just three
were able to advance to match play –
Paul Simson, Chip Lutz, and Hanzel –
and all were defeated in the first round.
Runner up Garrett Rank was a
curiosity at the Mid-Amateur last week.
Two professional caddies advanced
to the quarterfinals; Corby Segal, 41,
and Casey Boyns, 56. Segal’s full-time job is a PGA Tour caddie, usually
for Briny Baird. He was reinstated in
2005 and was competing in his second
Mid-Amateur championship. Boyns, a
popular caddie at Pebble Beach, also
qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur,
which will be played in New Jersey later
this month. He is a prominent player
in Northern California, having won 15
titles, including the California State
Amateur at Pebble Beach twice. Prior to
this tournament, Boyns had never won a
match in 10 USGA competitions.
A popular misconception about elite
mid-amateur players is that they are to-the-manor-born, or successful insurance
salesmen who ply their trade mostly on
the golf course. At Conway Farms, there
were plenty of examples that debunk that
myth, but none better than White.
A 44-year-old high school history
teacher, White has been in the classroom
since he left the pro ranks. He graduated
from Furman University and played pro
golf “for too long.” He was reinstated in
2001 and has been a top-tier competitor
on the national scene ever since.
He advanced to the round of 32 at
the U.S. Amateur this summer, and will
represent South Carolina in the State
Team Championship. Fortunately for
him, he has an understanding principal.
The 2002 Mid-Amateur champion
George Zahringer would have easily
qualified for match play, but he chose
to withdraw Sunday in order to attempt
to qualify for the U.S. Senior Amateur.
He was successful, shooting 72 to claim
a berth at Mountain Ridge CC in New
Jersey later this month.
Pennsylvanians Sean Knapp and
Smith went at it in the third round, with
Smith surviving in a 19-hole match.
Semifinalist Tim Jackson won the
Coleman Invitational earlier this year,
There were 33 players age 50 and
above in the mid-am field, and a dozen
Scott Rowe was a popular player at
Conway Farms last week. The former
Northwestern University standout was
also a member at Conway for many
years and a multiple club champion
before joining a club much closer to his
home, enabling him to better introduce
his children to the game. He was A