Birdies put Harris atop Mid-Am qualifiers

September 17, 1995|By John W. Stewart | John W. Stewart,Sun Staff Writer

John Harris separated himself from the U.S. Mid-Amateur field in a hurry yesterday. Two birdies in the first three holes have a way of doing that.

Harris, the 1993 U.S. Amateur champion from Edina, Minn., and a Walker Cup team member, returned a 5-under-par 34-3367 at Woodholme Country Club and took a two-stroke lead after the first of two championship qualifying rounds.

Gary Jacobson, Plymouth, Minn.; Blair Cunnings, Fresno, Calif.; and Pat Tallent, a former Maryland State Amateur finalist out of Congressional CC, were next at 2-under-par 69. They were followed by Mitch Voges, Simi Valley, Calif., 33-3770, all achieved at Caves Valley Golf Club.

Tallent had four birdies and two bogeys in shooting 34-35 to lead the dozen area players. Among the others were reigning Middle Atlantic Amateur titleholder Marty West III, former Baltimorean Doug Ballenger, 75; Larry Storck, CC Maryland, 77; Buddy Peoples, Crofton CC, 77; Joel Kaye, Caves Valley and Woodholme, 80; and Lee Martinson, Hillendale CC, 83.

Today, the 132 players from each first-round site will exchange places, with play scheduled to begin at 7:45 a.m. If a playoff is needed to sort out the final places in the 64-man draw, it will be held at Caves Valley.

Harris started at No. 10, had four birdies on the back nine (a 20-footer at 10 was the only putt longer than four feet), two birdies (inside of 10 feet) and a lone three-putt bogey.

"I'm pleased with it, obviously. You get the good weather [he played before cold and wind set in] and good greens and that's a nice combination," he said.

"It's a hard golf course, but I putted beautifully."

Harris, 43, said he was not feeling 100 percent, getting a cold from last Sunday's daylong rain in Wales, site of the Walker Cup matches.

"I'm going to go as hard as I can this week, because I'll have all winter to recuperate," he said.

Jacobson, 43, a one-time PGA Tour player who was away from golf for 10 years before coming back last year, had three birdies and a bogey. "I drove it great and made all the short putts," he said.

There was a long one, too, at No. 18. "I lipped out a 40-footer, but I hit it so hard it went 18 feet past, and I holed it for par," said Jacobson.

"The course played completely different than in the practice rounds," said Cunnings, 28, who missed the cut last year in his first Mid-Am start.

"Instead of thinking birdies on a couple of those early holes [from No. 1 at Caves Valley], you just want to get a good start.

A bogey at 14 -- "the easiest hole on the course" -- got Cunnings' attention and jump-started his game. From there, he birdied Nos. 15, 16, and 18 from 12, 10, and 14 feet, respectively.

"The one at 18 was a slider from behind the hole -- one with a big break. Overall, I wanted to hit my wedges well and stay out of trouble," said Cunnings. "My goal was no doubles, and my key thought was patience. I started putting cross-handed three weeks ago, and I can't tell you how good it's been."

NOTES: The tournament is open to the public with no charges for parking (available at each site) or admission. . . . Skip Tendall, a Congressional CC member and tournament director for the area Ronald McDonald events, caddied for Jacobson, who sells printing ink to newspapers. The two were teammates at Arizona State. . . . James Rebne, Abbotsford, Wis., started 3-10-3 (birdie-quintuple bogey-par) at Woodholme, shot 38 for the front and tacked on a 42.

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