In 1981, the first USGA Mid-Amateur championship was played at Bellerive country club in St. Louis, Missouri. After years of awareness that collegiate players had taken over the amateur game, the USGA created a championship that was meant to honor the career amateur, the player who had foresaken the temptaion of playing for pay, to play golf at the amateur level for life.
The notion is a simple one: the working man cannot fully commit to the hours of practice required to maintain the golfing prowess of a collegiate or professional player. As a result, the deck is stacked against a teacher, lawyer, police officer, fireman or other workaday golfer when it comes to the national championship. Although mid-ams routinely make the round of 16 and even the quarterfinals in the US Amateur, not since John Harris in 1993 has a mid-amateur held aloft the Havemeyer trophy.
Zip ahead 32 years. The victor in that first tournament, Jim Holtgrieve, is the captain of the 2013 Walker Cup USA side and he is keenly aware of the importance of the mid-amateur. In January of 2013, the USGA put forth the decree that a minimum of two mid-amateurs would receive spots on Team USA. This was an important declaration for the reason that the number one had never before been a minimum. Although decorated mid-ams like Trip Kuehne, John Miller and George Zahringer had earned caps for the United States team, they had not done so as token recipients from the over-25 set. They were simply recognized as one of the best ten amateurs in the USA.
Holtgrieve will be present at the 2013 Porter Cup, this time as a scout. His purpose is to find two older amateurs worthy of recognition as US walker cuppers. Nearly everyone in amateur golf was astonished to learn that Nathan Smith was not given early admission to the team on July 17th, when the first names of the five members of the US squad were announced. Some saw it as an affirmation that Smith, despite his stature as a two-time team member and the current USGA Mid-Amateur champion, was not the lock that everyone expected. Others saw it as a commitment to finding the two most on-form mid ams in the land. Either way (or both), the Porter Cup gained considerable significance for this sect of the amateur creed.
Despite his omission, Nathan Smith of Pittsburgh remains the front-runner for one of the spots on the team. His status as reigning mid-amateur champion is too gilded to ignore. Nevertheless, there is a catch: Smith is currently ranked 223rd in the Scratch Players amateur ranking, Listed at 145th is Todd White of Spartanburg, South Carolina. Other candidates for the team are Scott Harvey and Matt Crenshaw of North Carolina, Bobby Leopold of Rhode Island, Mike McCoy of Iowa, Tripp Davis of Oklahoma, Nick Gilliam of Florida, Tim Mickelson of Arizona and Skip Berkmeyer of Missouri. It’s a safe bet that one of these Porter Cup competitors will be named to the USA Walker Cup side in August. If a pair of them has high-enough finishes at the Porter Cup, Western Amateur or US Amateur (the final three major competitions of the summer), they’ll shake hands and join to represent this country on Long Island in September.
For more on all the competitors in the Porter Cup: 2013, visit the official player profiles guide.