Road to Mid-Amateur: from playoff to exempt


Cliff Harris and John Harris, two of the four Harrises in the 15th annual U.S. Mid-Amateur championship, took opposite routes into the 264-man field that will be playing at Caves Valley Golf Club and Woodholme Country Club this weekend.

Cliff Harris, from Indianapolis, got in via a sectional qualifier at Sycamore Hills GC in Fort Wayne, Ind., surviving a six-for-five playoff in the process. John Harris, from Edina, Minn., earned an exemption from qualifying as the 1993 U.S. Amateur champion.

The other two non-related Harrises are Keith, from Concord, N.C., and Tracy, from Little Rock, Calif. A fifth Harris, Richard Jr., from San Francisco, withdrew earlier this week.

"There were 101 players for six spots on the toughest course in the state, outside of Crooked Stick [the nationally recognized course in Carmel, Ind., where Harris is a member]," Cliff Harris said. "I shot 72 and figured I'd won the medal by two strokes. They held our State Amateur on that course and the average score was 74.

"It turned out that the field came from Illinois and Michigan as well as Indiana, and it was a really strong group. The medalist [John Miller, Bloomington, Ind.] shot 71. In the playoff, I made it at the first extra hole, but it took seven holes before Ron Cleland [Elkhart, Ind.] got the last place. That means one player [Tim Massey, Carmel, Ind.] is sitting home, despite having had a great score."

While the qualifying process was under way, John Harris, 43, an insurance executive, was playing in the U.S. Amateur at Newport, R.I. (75-78153, and missed the playoff by eight strokes), then joining the rest of the U.S. Walker Cup squad for its trip to Porthcawl, Wales.

Harris, who had gone 3-0 in the 1993 matches, won both his singles and teamed with two-time U.S. Amateur champion Tiger Woods to get a point in one foursomes match. Harris' 2 1/2 points were the most by any of the Americans in their 14-10 defeat.

"In 1993, the timing was right for me," Harris said of his six-match streak that concluded with a 5-and-3 triumph over Danny Ellis, of Haines City, Fla., at Champions Golf Club in Houston. "I had been playing well going in, the course fit my game, and I made a key putt in my second match [a 19-hole decision over Danny Green, Jackson, Tenn.] or I would have been home for the rest of the championship."

With that victory came a series of "perks," including a spot on the U.S. World Amateur team that won the championship at Versailles, France; and berths in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. Sometimes things went better than others.

At last year's Mid-Am, held at Wayzata CC and Hazeltine National GC (Harris' home course), in Minnesota, Harris shot 71 at Wayzata, and 83 at Hazeltine, and the 154 was five shots out of the playoff. "I don't think I had more than two rounds over par on that course all summer, and that happened to be one of them," he said.

"The [recent] Walker Cup was a fantastic experience," he said. "One of the benefits of playing at this level is the exposure to better players. For instance, Tiger helped with some things last week. It's just a great thrill to represent your country."

NOTE: Practice rounds today and tomorrow at both courses, in addition to the championship proper, are open to the public at no charge, with parking available at each site.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad