Kevin Marsh storms into U.S. Mid-Am quarterfinals

Kevin Marsh, winner of the 1996 and 2008 SCGA Amateur Championship as well as the 2012 California Amateur Championship, Tuesday advanced to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

Kevin Marsh, 40, of Henderson, Nev., won two matches, including a second-round win over defending champion Nathan Smith, 35, of Pittsburgh, on Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinal round at the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, held at the par-71, 7,173-yard Country Club of Birmingham’s West Course.

Marsh, the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur titlist, defeated Smith, a four-time winner of this championship, 2 and 1. In the third round, he held off Keith Unikel, 34, of Potomac, Md., 1 up.

“I told myself at lunch to not have a letdown,” said Marsh about his morning win over Smith, a member of last month’s winning USA Walker Cup Team. “I was proud of myself for beating Nathan. It wouldn’t have meant as much if I was not able to back it up.”

The U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship continues with the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds on Wednesday. The championship is scheduled to conclude with a 36-hole final on Thursday, Oct. 10, starting at 7 a.m. CDT.

Marsh won two consecutive holes with a conceded birdie on the par-5 15th and an up-and-down par from right of the cart path on No. 16 to take a 2-up lead on Smith in the morning round, which featured a marquee match between two former champions. His two-putt par from 16 feet on the following hole closed out the victory.

“He’s going to be a tough out for somebody in the next round,” said Smith, the defending champion and a four-time winner of this event. “It’s one of those matches where I don’t really regret anything. After the first two holes, he just started playing great.”

Smith was right, as Marsh went on to later defeat Keith Unikel of Potomac, Maryland to advance to the quarterfinals.

“I played well at the right times,” said Marsh of his match against Smith, who advanced to the Round of 16 for the fourth time in 10 Mid-Amateur appearances. “I got off to a horrible start and that probably helped me play more aggressively.”

Marsh and Smith, who faced each other in match play for the first time despite their long history in this championship, went back and forth through the opening 13 holes. Smith squared the match on the par-4 14th when he was conceded a 15-foot birdie putt after his opponent found the hazard with his approach shot.

After Marsh won the next hole with a birdie, Smith, a member of last month’s winning USA Walker Cup Team, found the front left greenside bunker at the 491-yard, par-4 16th. Marsh pushed his second shot from the fairway to the right of the green, but recovered nicely by lofting a 60-degree wedge to within four inches to win the hole with a par. Marsh, the fourth seed, split the fairway with his tee shot on No. 17 to set up his clinching two-putt par and the win.

Marsh had a 3-up lead after 10 holes in his afternoon match, but Unikel reeled off three consecutive birdies to square the match. A pair of pars helped Marsh win Nos. 14 and 15. He two-putted from the upper left fringe on the par-4 14th and sunk a 6-footer on the following hole.

After a bogey on No. 16 cut his lead in half, Marsh, the No. 4 seed coming out of the stroke play portion of the championship, later found himself in the left fairway bunker on the 434-yard, par-4 18th. He calmly struck a 9-iron to within 9 feet to set up the match-clinching par.

“Pars are really good around here, especially the last five or six holes,” said Marsh, who advanced to the U.S. Mid-Amateur quarterfinals for a fourth time. “I am not swinging real confidently. It’s all about figuring out a way and taking it one hole at a time.”

Marsh will face Ken Tanigawa of Arizona Wednesday morning in the Elite Eight.


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