KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. – Tim Spitz, who describes himself as “basically a local player” who has never even won his city’s amateur championship, will take on one of the country’s top amateurs in Friday’s U.S. Men’s Mid-Amateur final.
Spitz, who’s playing in just his second USGA championship, beat Patrick Carter, 3 and 2, in the semifinals Thursday at Kiawah Island Club’s Cassique Course. He’ll face U.S. Walker Cup team member Nathan Smith in Friday’s final. Smith, the 2003 U.S. Mid-Am champ, hit a spectacular second shot into No. 18 to win the final hole and beat Robert Gerwin, 1 up, in the other semifinal.
The biggest storyline at each U.S. Mid-Amateur is the champion’s invitation to the Masters. Smith played there in ’04, missing the cut by two shots. Spitz has done a good job of controlling his emotions and keeping his mind off of the potential trip to Augusta.
“I think all 4,000 people who filled out the application think about (the Masters),” Spitz said. “Each time it pops into my head, I try to kick it out as fast as I can.”
Spitz’s resume is thin compared with Smith, the 2003 U.S. Mid-Am champ. Spitz’s only previous USGA championship was the 1996 U.S. Amateur. He’s a four-time runner-up in the Rochester District Championship, finishing second this year to 15-year-old Gavin Hall, the No. 17 player in the Golfweek/Titleist Junior Rankings. Spitz is a five-time club champion at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y., host of the prestigious Monroe Invitational.
“It turns out I’m pretty good,” said Spitz, 33, of Rochester, N.Y., about making the final.
Spitz got off to a shaky start Thursday but was able to steady himself after three-putting the par-3 fifth hole to go 1 down. He scored an unlikely halve on the next hole to keep from falling 2 down. A difficult chip left him with a 35-foot birdie putt on the par 5, while Carter hit the green in two. Spitz made his lengthy putt to halve the hole.
“That was great match play,” Spitz said. “It was a real momentum-changer.”
He won the next hole, the 231-yard, par-3 seventh, with par to square the match, and took his first lead of the day with a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th. Spitz won Nos. 13 and 16, both par 3s, with pars to close out the match.
On the final hole of the match, Carter hit a shot that he said “was 3 feet from being perfect,” but rolled into a bunker instead of close to the hole. He made bogey while Spitz made par.
Spitz grinded his way through Thursday’s match on a breezy day in the marshland around Kiawah Island. He said he has relied on a fade for 90 percent of his shots while struggling to work the ball from right to left
“I’m trying to grind people into the ground with pars,” he said, “and then throw in the occasional birdie.”
He made nine pars and two birdies over the final 11 holes to close out Carter.
Smith’s U.S. Mid-Am trophy from ’03 came with an interesting footnote. Smith won when his final opponent, Bryan Norton, had to withdraw with a calf injury during their match. It is the only USGA final to end due to injury.
Smith looked championship-worthy as he closed out Gerwin on Thursday. They had halved every hole on the back nine and came to No. 18 all square. Smith said he had “a perfect yardage,” 162 yards to the hole, and hit a 7-iron to 10 feet. Gerwin had a poor lie in the left rough, and left his second shot well short of the green. He chipped to 12 feet but missed his par putt. Smith two-putted for victory.
“I hit it pretty close, but it was still the longest two-putt I’ve ever made,” Smith said about his downhill, down-grain and downwind putt.
If Smith were to win, he’d join Trip Kuehne as players on winning teams at the Walker Cup and USGA State Team Championship and won the U.S. Mid-Amateur the same year. Kuehne did it in 2007.
Smith is the No. 6 amateur in the United States, according to the Golfweek/amateurgolf.com Rankings. His good play this year is a result of a two-year push to make the Walker Cup team. He spent this summer traveling the country to play in top amateur events; his father, Larry, has served as his caddie, including this week.
After his successful summer, Smith, 31, said he’s returning to work next week as an investment adviser.
“I’ll need Mapquest to find (the office),” he joked.
Another Mid-Am title will make those 9-to-5 days a little more palpable.
Results from the semifinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur, played Oct. 8 at the par-71 River Course and the par-72 Cassique Course at the Kiawah Island (S.C.) Club:
Tim Spitz def. Patrick Carter, 3 and 2
Nathan Smith def. Robert Gerwin, 1 up
• • •
Patrick Carter def. Todd Burgan, 4 and 3
Tim Spitz def. Tripp Davis, 20 holes
Nathan Smith def. Christopher Marin, 1 up
Robert Gerwin def. Steve Wilson, 2 up
• • •
ROUND OF 16
Todd Burgan def. Michael McCoy, 2 and 1
Patrick Carter def. Randal Lewis, 5 and 3
Tim Spitz def. Danny Germaine, 3 and 2
Tripp Davis def. Andrew Medley, 3 and 2
Nathan Smith def. Dave Bunker, 4 and 3
Christopher Marin def. Sean Knapp, 2 and 1
Robert Gerwin def. Troy Logan, 4 and 3
Steve Wilson def. Jeff Wilson, 5 and 4
• • •
ROUND OF 32
Michael McCoy def. Erik Hanson, 7 and 5
Todd Burgan def. Lloyd Fisher, 2 and 1
Patrick Carter def. Andrew Rice, 5 and 4
Randal Lewis def. Bert Atkinson, 4 and 3
Tim Spitz def. Derek Berg, 2 and 1
Danny Germaine def. Chad Sawyer, 5 and 4
Tripp Davis def. Craig Cyr, 7 and 6
Andrew Medley def. Dave Womack, 2 and 1
Nathan Smith def. Brandon Smith, 2 and 1
Dave Bunker def. Robert Funk, 2 and 1
Christopher Marin def Tim Jackson, 20 holes
Sean Knapp def. Arnold Cutrell, 3 and 2
Robert Gerwin def. Jerry Chang, 4 and 3
Troy Logan def. Kenny Cook, 1 up
Jeff Wilson def. Danny Green, 3 and 1
Steve Wilson def. Scott Harvey, 19 holes
• • •
ROUND OF 64
Michael McCoy def. Robert Crockett, 4 and 3
Erik Hanson def. Keith Decker, 19 holes
Lloyd Fisher def. Steven Irwin, 1 up
Todd Burgan def. Michael Karger, 20 holes
Patrick Carter def. Michael Brown, 7 and 6
Andrew Rice def. Tyler Shelton, 1 up
Randal Lewis def. Mike Cobb, 5 and 4
Bert Atkinson def. Joseph Saladino, 6 and 5
Derek Berg def. Johnny Canova, 5 and 4
Tim Spitz def. Kevin Marsh, 1 up
Chad Sawyer def. Jeff Frazier, 1 up
Danny Germaine def. Jon Lindstrom, 2 up
Tripp Davis def. Freeman Fite, 5 and 4
Craig Cyr def. Kory Bowman, 3 and 2
Dave Womack def. Taylor Massey, 2 and 1
Andrew Medley def. Nicholas Biesecker, 1 up
Nathan Smith def. Alan Stearns, 6 and 5
Brandon Smith def. Tim Mickelson, 19 holes
Robert Funk def. Jeffrey Hedden, 20 holes
Dave Bunker def. George Marucci Jr
Christopher Marin def. T.J. Wilson, 4 and 3
Tim Jackson def. Christopher Reeves, 5 and 4
Arnold Cutrell def. Douglas Hanzel, 2 and 1
Sean Knapp def. Chris Igawa, 19 holes
Robert Gerwin def. Doug Manor, 3 and 1
Jerry Chang def. Hunter Nelson, 1 up
Troy Logan def. Cameron Mackenzie
Kenny Cook def. Bradley Shaw, 1 up
Jeff Wilson def. Dan Sullivan, 1 up
Danny Green def. Tim Sheppard, 2 and 1
Steve Wilson def. Uly Grisette, 2 and 1
Scott Harvey def. John Pitt, 5 and 3