Bryn Mawr’s McDer­mott reaches fi­nal 8

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Neil Geoghe­gan ngeoghe­gan@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @NeilMGeoghe­gan on Twit­ter

WEST NANTMEAL >> There is an hon­est to good­ness lo­cal fa­vorite in the quar­ter­fi­nals of the 36th United States Mid­dle-Am­a­teur Cham­pi­onship at Stonewall.

Just eight com­peti­tors are still alive af­ter the field was cut in half twice on Tues­day, and Bryn Mawr’s Michael McDer­mott is in the thick of it thanks to an amaz­ing come-from-be­hind 1-up vic­tory over Derek Busby of Re­ston, La., in a round of 16 af­ter­noon match. McDer­mott also had a 1-up tri­umph in the morn­ing ses­sion, and has al­ready se­cured the best USGA show­ing of his lengthy am­a­teur ca­reer.

“I had never won more than one match at the U.S. Mid-Am, so to now have won three, it is wa­ters I’ve not been in yet be­fore, even though I al­ways be­lieved I could,” said McDer­mott, 41.

Trail­ing most of the af­ter­noon, the five-time Golf As­so­ci­a­tion of Philadel­phia Player of the Year won two of the fi­nal three holes to ad­vance. McDer­mott will tee off Wed­nes­day at 7:30 a.m. against Cal­i­for­nian Ste­wart Hages­tad, with an eye to­ward ad­vanc­ing to the af­ter­noon semi­fi­nal.

“Once I saw Derek’s game, I re­al­ized any­thing less than re­ally good wasn’t go­ing to be good enough,” said McDer­mott, who has played in nine U.S. Mid-Ams over the years. “I started birdie, birdie, par and the match was even.

“I walked off the third green and said to my Dad, ‘I am not go-

ing to win this with a medi­ocre ef­fort. I have to play lights out against this guy.’”

The match was played at a very high level, which made the fin­ish all the more bizarre as Busby 2-putted from about 8 feet on the 447-yard, par-4 fin­ish­ing hole, hand­ing McDer­mott the vic­tory. With McDer­mott al­ready in with a par, Busby’s first putt went about 2 feet past the hole, and he missed the come­back.

“I can’t re­mem­ber any­one miss­ing a putt that they shouldn’t miss to end a match against me,” McDer­mott said. “But it can hap­pen. You may make 100 of them in a row, but if it’s 2 feet to go to the 19th hole, you could miss half of them at that point.”

In all, McDer­mott trailed for a dozen holes, but fi­nally got it back to all square at the 498-yard, par-4 16th. He suc­cess­fully hit a power fade off the tee for the first time all week, but his down­hill 7-iron from 209 yards out rolled off the side of the green, pin-high. That’s when McDer­mott came

up with, per­haps, his best chip of the tour­na­ment that wound up be­ing a gimme for par. Busby pro­ceeded to bo­gey the hole, set­ting the stage for the fin­ish.

“(Busby) is a re­ally great player and I played my heart out (Tues­day) against him,” McDer­mott said. “I kept it close when he was play­ing lights out on the front.

“I’m a lit­tle shocked, when a match ends like that. But I’m ex­cited. I’m go­ing to go home, have din­ner and sleep in my own bed, and then wake up and do it all again (Wed­nes­day).”

Along the way, McDer­mott made a series of 6- to 7-foot putts to halve Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 10.

“If those don’t go in, I am 3-down,” McDer­mott said.

“I was be­hind but I kept hav­ing the hon­ors for the last nine holes. I knew (Busby’s) ball was go­ing to be down the mid­dle, and at the pin. So it was help­ful not to be pol­luted with good images of my op­po­nent. That’s what the front nine was, watch­ing him stripe it.”

By virtue of his top-8 fin­ish, McDer­mott is now ex­empt for the 2017 U.S. MidAm. But the 1997 St. Joe’s grad — who once held the com­pet­i­tive course record at Stonewall’s Old Course (67 in 2002) — is now just two wins away from get­ting into the fi­nal.

In the morn­ing ses­sion, McDer­mott was 1-up at the turn against Florid­ian Joe Al­fieri, and in­creased the mar­gin to 3-up with a pair of con­ceded birdie putts at Nos. 13 and 15. But he had some trou­ble the rest of the way and had to hold on.

He putted off the green at 16 for a bo­gey and then missed the 17th green for an­other bo­gey. But on the par-4 fin­ish­ing hole, McDer­mott halved the hole with a rou­tine par.

“I started play­ing good to get 3-up and then made the two bo­geys,” McDer­mott said. “Six­teen is a tough 2-putt. You prob­a­bly 2-putt about 25 per­cent of the time there. I would have liked to have (2-putted) and saved my­self a headache.

“At 17, that was a men­tal and phys­i­cal er­ror all

wrapped in one.”

An­other lo­cal com­peti­tor, Yard­ley’s Christo­pher Ault, ad­vanced to the round of 16 be­fore be­ing ousted by Scott Har­vey, the 2014 U.S. MidAm cham­pion. Top-seeded Michael Mue­her is also still alive, but de­fend­ing cham­pion Sammy Sch­mitz fell to Scott Strick­land.

Philadel­phia’s Gre­gor Or­lando fell 2-and-1 to Muehr of Po­tomac Falls, Va., in a round of 32 con­test. NOTES » Ad­mis­sion to the U.S. Mid-Am is free and tick­ets are not re­quired. The pub­lic can park for free at a lot near the cor­ner of Morn­ingstar and Read­ing Fur­nace roads, and take a free shut­tle to Stonewall … There will be at least four hours of live tele­vi­sion cov­er­age on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day on Fox Sports One. The broad­cast of the semi­fi­nal round on Wed­nes­day will be from 3-5 p.m., and the cham­pi­onship round will be tele­vised from 3-5 p.m. on Thurs­day. For­mer Berywn res­i­dent Buddy Marucci , who now lives in Vil­lanova, will serve in the role of on-course re­porter. Marucci won the 2008 U.S. Se­nior Am­a­teur and was the run­ner-up in the 1995 U.S. Am­a­teur to Tiger Woods.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Bryn Mawr’s Mike McDer­mott tees off on the 11th Mon­day.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Bryn Mawr’s Mike McDer­mott, here dur­ing his round Mon­day, won twice on Tues­day to reach the quar­ter­fi­nals of the United States Mid­dle-Am­a­teur.

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