By Pat Galbincea of NOGA
HUDSON — Not many of the 54 golfers competing for three qualifying spots Monday (Aug. 1) in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Qualifier at Lake Forest Country Club came to the Northern Ohio Golf Association scoring table smiling.
It was a rough day for most of the competitors except for two veterans — Nick Lambos, 56, from Canton Brookside and Michael Kelley, 51, from New Albany C.C. near Westerville — and one youngster — John Ebert, 30, and a member at Canterbury.
Scoring was higher than expected despite the fact Lake Forest director of golf John Goodson said over 600 trees were removed from the course over a year ago.
“We did it to improve the golf course, especially the turf (quality),” said Goodson, now in his 31st year at the club. “Trees were choking off some of the grass. But, we still have a lot of trees here at Lake Forest.”
How tough was the course? Even Brian Smith, multi-winner of NOGA’s Player-of-the-Year award, struggled with an 83. He’s a member of Oberlin C.C.
“My swing was off today,” said Smith. “I was pulling shots left and casting the club, which you can’t do at Lake Forest and expect to go the U.S. Mid-Amateur,” said Smith.
Not so with Lambos, who is very accurate off the tee and possesses a sterling short game.
Lambos, playing in the third earliest group, birdied three straight holes on the back nine and turned in a 3-under 69 to earn medalist honors and a fourth trip to the U.S. Mid-Amateur, this year to be held Sept. 10-15 at Stonewall Links in Elverson, Pa.
“I never thought I’d be the medalist,” said Lambos. “I was steady off the tee, hit into the middle of greens with tough pin placements and made several putts in the 15-20 foot range.
“It’s the first time I’ll be playing the U.S. Am in a non-seaside city which will disappoint my wife…but she’ll be google-searching where the outlet malls near Elverson are anyway.”
The trip to the championship will be the first for Ebert, who lives in downtown Cleveland and is employed at KeyBank. He shot 2-under 70 and had four birdies.
“I played a practice round Sunday and hit five balls out of bounds, so I wasn’t expecting much at Lake Forest today,” Ebert said. “I mean, I have never qualified for the Mid-Am or any USGA event. But I hit my irons better than expected, and I hit a lot of those small greens (in regulation) so it all worked out well.”
Ebert said his best birdie came on the par 4, 404-yard 15th hole, where his tee shot appeared to be heading out of bounds, only to hit a tree and stay inbounds. He then hooked a 7-iron under tree limbs and onto the green, 4 feet from the pin.
Kelley earned his 14th trip to the Mid-Am in a more difficult fashion. He was tied with Jeffrey O’Brien from the Shaker Heights C.C., at even par 72, forcing a playoff to determine who the third qualifier would be. Both parred the par 5 first hole, forcing the pair to play again on the par 3 18th. Kelley hit the green in regulation while O’Brien missed the green to the right. He chipped on but missed his par putt.
“I’ve had a lot of good luck in playoffs,” said Kelley, a banker at Wells Fargo. “But I have yet to do well in my previous 13 Mid-Ams so I’m hoping for better results.”
O”brien will be the area’s first alternate, and Daniel Metzendorf of Medina, who shot 1-over 73, is the second and final alternate.
Click here to view photos of the event.