It was close, but Doug Ballenger, a former Baltimorean, did make it into the Mid-Am field.
Championship qualifying for the 15th annual U.S. Mid-Amateur begins this morning at Caves Valley Golf Club and Woodholme Country Club and continues tomorrow, with the low 64 scorers advancing to match play Monday at Caves Valley.
Ballenger, the manager of national accounts for Club Car, said he opted to try the Williamsburg (Va.) qualifier because he was there on business. He had to survive a three-for-two playoff at the Golden Horseshoe's Green Course, but that was nothing compared to the wedge shot he holed at the 18th just to get into the playoff.
"I had done a lot of extra walking all summer, too, knowing what the two courses were like," he said yesterday. "And belonging to Caves Valley, obviously I wanted to play here."
That put extra pressure on him in the qualifying round, and he admitted "choking," missing five putts inside of six feet.
Ballenger, 44, a former Maryland State Amateur and Maryland Open champion in the early 1970s, was in town last week, too, playing in the Caves Valley club championship.
Ed Gibstein, a former U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist and Mid-Amateur semifinalist, shot a competitive course-record 66 in qualifying, but lost to Ballenger in the semifinals. Ballenger then won the title, beating Henry Blue.
After that, it was not surprising that Ballenger decided to play both his practice rounds at Woodholme this week.
"When you walk 36 holes back-to-back [two rounds Tuesday, two rounds Wednesday] at Caves, all that up-and-down work -- it gets you in the shins. It's going to take a tough horse to win this thing."
Jim Holtgrieve of St. Louis has played in 33 USGA championships -- including the first U.S. Mid-Amateur championship, in which he beat Bob Lewis Jr., 2 up, at Bellerive CC in St. Louis.
"Although I wasn't a member at Bellerive, I was involved at St. Louis," Holtgrieve said. "We thought we did a pretty good job, but this facility is so much better. These guys don't understand how good this is if they haven't been here before."
In addition to the 10 players who qualified in the sectional at Army Navy CC in Arlington, Va., Ben Brundred III, a Congressional CC member from Chantilly, Va., was one of eight to make it at Rolling Green GC in Springfield, Pa. He has played in three U.S. Amateurs, and this is his second Mid-Amateur. . . . Pat Lockwood of Brookings, S.D., had some mixed emotions in coming here. He was the first alternate for the fourth year in a row, yet when he got in, it was at the expense of good friend Paul Schock of Sioux Falls, S.D., who had to withdraw because of illness in his family. . . . A late withdrawal yesterday was Mel Hughes of Greenwood Village, Colo., to be replaced by Mark Emery of Phoenix. . . . Kye Goalby of St. Louis is the son of former Masters champion Bob Goalby.
What: 15th annual U.S. Mid-Amateur championship.
When: Today through Thursday.
Where: Caves Valley GC & Woodholme CC today and tomorrow; other rounds at Caves Valley.
Who: 264 players at least 25 years of age.
Format: 36-hole qualifying (single 18-hole rounds at each site, with low 64 scorers advancing to match play).
Tickets: Admission is free.
Parking: Available at each site at no charge.
Directions: Caves Valley GC (Park Heights Avenue, about five miles outside the Beltway). Woodholme CC (off Reisterstown Road, first light outside the Beltway. Turn left and road leads to the club).