Carroll County's 21-year-old Mike Wah still finds it hard to believe he will be called to the tee this month in Columbus, Ohio, as a contestant in the United States Amateur Golf Championship.
"Getting to the nationals is beyond anything I'd ever hoped for," said Wah, a resident of Union Bridge and a golfer who plays out of Wakefield Valley.
Wah's previous efforts in tournament golf have been limited to division two junior college competition. Although he was selected as an All-American junior college player while attending Frederick Community College, Wah had not exposed his game to any top state or sectional amateur play.
At one time, it appeared that his prime interests in athletics would be with soccer, rather than golf. He held the record for goal-scoring at Frederick Community College.
But Wah made a major impression in his first major golf start. Competing in a field of 84 golfers who were battling for four U.S. Amateur qualifying spots at Wakefield Valley, Wah grabbed one of the berths with rounds of 74 and 72 for a 36-hole total of 146.
This means Wah will join other qualifiers from all over the nation to compete at Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village course, where contestants will vie in another 36-hole qualifier to determine match-play positions.
Other sectional qualifiers at the Wakefield trials were Gary Wood of Martinsville, Va., 142; Henry Blue of Baltimore's Green Spring Valley Hunt Club, 143; and Jim Cangiano of Frederick's Holly Hills Club with 145. Among those winning alternate berths were Bob Lutz of Prospect Bay, 147; Todd Eckenrode of Wakefield Valley, 148; Justin Klein of Hunt Valley, 149; and Gary Mason of Hobbits Glen, 150.
After his schooling at Francis Scott Key in Uniontown and FCC, Wah now is enrolled at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Although not a member at Wakefield Valley, Wah has worked during the past year at various positions in the club's stepped-up operation.
Scoring in the amateur qualifying rounds was just about what head professional Bill Horney expected.
"The course was set up as fair as possible," said Horney. "Most of the pins were centered. Still, from the back tees and the pressure of tournament golf, a lot of players let their games get away from them. Two-under-par golf was what I thought would win the medal, and it did," added Horney.
* Gerry Eckenrode is the 1992 match play champion at Wakefield Valley.
The insurance executive, who formerly held the club's stroke play title, edged Bob Kirkner 1-up in a 27-hole final. Traditionally the finalists used all three nines at Wakefield.
The closely-contested final saw Eckenrode lead 1-up after nine holes and 1-up after 18. He built a 3-up and three to play situation in the stretch, but Kirkner fought back with a winning birdie at the 25th and a winning par at the 26th, forcing the match to the final hole.
The pair halved the 27th with pars.
In the semi-finals, Gerry Eckenrode defeated Todd Eckenrode (no relation) 1-up and Kirkner defeated John Brandenburg 1-up. In other flight finals, (1)-Bob Heltebridle defeated Ovie Belt 7-5; 00 (2) Gary Owings defeated Chuck Husman 5 and 3; (3) Howard Frymier defeated Steve Lehmann 3-2; (4) Bill Coburn defeated Ralph McGarrell 1-up, 22 holes; and (5) Al Bibeau defeated Mike Lynch 3-2.
In the women's championship final, Diana Tames defeated Pat Smith, 8-7.
* It is Wayne Gailey's turn again to hold the Piney Branch match play championship.
Gailey, who repeatedly has battled his brothers Carol and Steve for top golfing laurels at Piney Branch, made it into this year's winning circle with a convincing 8-7 victory over Steve Eline in the 36-hole final.
Eline, playing in the club final for the first time, was six down after 18 holes. In the semi-finals Wayne defeated Steve Cimbalista, 3-2, and Eline defeated Steve Gailey, 3-2. Carol Gailey, the defending champion, was defeated in early play by Ken O'Dea, 3-2.
The men's flight winners were (1) Ray Stewart, (2) Dick Titus, (3) Bill Seward, (4) Steve Golding and (5) Len Mumma.
E9 Deb Rhodes defeated Peggy Eline in the women's final.
Winners of the senior two-man team competition at Bear Creek were Charles and Jim Amerheim with a score of 16 under par, and Lee Miller and Adam Potts with a 6 under par score.
Jim Hackett won low gross with 41 and Marty Schultz took low net with 32 in the weekly twilight league.