Bryn Mawr’s McDermott reaches final 8
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.
Bryn Mawr’s Mike McDermott tees off on the 11th Monday.
Bryn Mawr’s Mike McDermott, here during his round Monday, won twice on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals of the United States Middle-Amateur.