Dewitt turns into force in Mid-Amateur Colorado player uses 19 putts to advance


Rick Dewitt stopped a buzz saw with a steamroller, and all four area players advanced through the first round of match play in the 15th annual U.S. Mid-Amateur championship at Caves Valley Golf Club yesterday.

Doug Ballenger, the host club champion; Marty West III, from Rockville; Tom Winegardner, from Lothian; and Pat Tallent, a Congressional Country Club member, each produced a victory.

Among others in the 32-match round, medalist and former U.S. Amateur champion John Harris stayed alive when opponent Gene Elliott three-putted the 18th, then won it with a 30-foot birdie putt at the first extra hole.

Jerry Courville, Bill Brafford and Gary Jacobson each won with a birdie on the second extra hole, and James Taylor won with a 19th-hole birdie.

Randy Haag won 17 and 18 for a 2-up win over U.S. Amateur finalist and Walker Cup player Buddy Marucci; and Buddy Alexander, another ex-U.S. Amateur champion, had three back-nine birdies en route to a 5-and-3 victory.

Earlier, area players Scott Inman, Springfield, Va.; Barry McCarty, Alexandria, Va.; Ben Brundred III, Congressional Country Club; and Mike Cox, Lusby, went 0-for-4 seeking first-round spots in the 20-for-eight playoff for the final places.

After making two birdies and going 2-down against Chris McKenna's four straight birdies out of the box, Dewitt said he thought, "Where's the power switch on this buzz saw?"

Starting at No. 5, Dewitt, from Arvada, Colo., won eight of the next 10 holes for a 6-and-4 decision. He finished with seven birdies, had 12 putts on the front nine and 19 for the match.

Of the area contingent, Ballenger's effort was the most impressive.

The former Baltimorean, now living in Evans, Ga., was 2 down early, even after No. 11, then closed out Thomas Strong, Greendale, Wis., by winning four successive holes for a 4-and-2 decision.

Ballenger, 44, was 1-under par for the seven holes on the back nine, and said two shots were keys to the win. "I made a 20-foot putt for par, and a win at the 11th, and the best shot of the day was a pitching wedge to four feet for birdie at the 14th."

For Winegardner, 34, this is the cap on a summer devoted to working toward a higher level.

"It's been a dream world, because basically I took the summer off to play golf," he said after thwarting Scott Turney, of Aliso Viejo, Calif., 2 and 1.

"I went to six of the Nike qualifiers, made one [plus the cut] in Buffalo, N.Y., and missed by one shot in three other qualifiers," he said.

West turned even against Grace, birdied 10 to go 1-up and

reeled off seven straight pars for a 2-and-1 verdict.

Tallent, 42, was 2-up at the turn, then parred the 11th and birdied the 15th for a 4-and-3 verdict over Robert Howlett, of West Worthington, Ohio.

Notes: In the playoff, Scott Inman, Springfield, Va., missed a 15-inch par putt at No. 11 that, if made, would have put him in, and at No. 14, he missed from five feet that, if made, would have put him in. . . . Area players who failed to advance were Buddy Peoples, Crofton CC, 77-76153; Larry Storck, CC Maryland, 77-79156; Joel Kaye, Caves Valley GC, 80-77157; Lee Martinson, Hillendale CC, 83-79162.

(Results, 12c)

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