By STEVE HANF
Scott Harvey is just about ready to put his clubs in the closet for a month and take a much-needed break from golf.
He’ll have plenty of memories to tide him over during his break – and plenty to look forward to when it ends – thanks to last month’s victory in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. The 36-year-old property manager from Greensboro is a five-time winner with the Carolinas Golf Association, but captured his first-ever U.S. Golf Association event thanks to nine impressive rounds over six days at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.
The championship likely ranks as the biggest for a Triad amateur since High Point’s Drew Weaver won the 2007 British Amateur. Like Weaver then, Harvey now has plenty of perks coming his way: a 10-year exemption for qualifying for the U.S. Mid-Am, exemptions into the next two U.S. Amateurs, three years of exemptions from local qualifying for the U.S. Open. Oh, and that likely invitation to the 2015 Masters.
Little wonder, then, that so many people were full of so much excitement when Harvey clinched the finale over Brad Nurski of Missouri.
“I got to my car after the tournament was over with, the interviews, the ceremony and everything, and I had 407 text messages,” Harvey recalled. “It was crazy. I didn’t know I even knew that many people. My voicemail was full, I had countless emails. I flew home that night and the next day I got up and spent 5 ½ hours responding to every one of them, and as I would respond I’d get more.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Harvey added. “I had no idea so many people were following it, were cheering for me. It’s been kind of wild, but I love it. I’m still not sleeping that much because of the excitement.”
The attention stemmed from Harvey’s mostly dominant performance on the par-71, 7,076-yard Old Course. In his seventh straight year playing the Mid-Am, Harvey opened with a 65 and then held on for a 76 to finish the two rounds of stroke play as co-medalist with Nurski. In match play, he won two close matches, then cruised through to the 36-hole finale with Nurski. It marked only the second time in the 34-year history of the Mid-Am that co-medalists met for the championship.
Harvey entered the Mid-Am feeling confident, but not overly so. In each of the past six years, he had lost to an opponent who either won the championship or lost in the finals.
“They did some pretty remarkable things to beat me,” Harvey said. “I knew I could do it, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to.”
To give himself a better chance to win, Harvey changed his approach to the marathon event. He got more rest leading up to the tournament so he would be fresher against the mental and physical grind of playing so much golf against so many great players in such a short period of time.
The strategy paid off with good margins of victory in the Round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals. Then championship eve came – and all that talk about rest went out the window.
Harvey and Rocky Manning – his friend and caddy – went out to dinner and headed back to their hotel. Harvey’s phone “started to go crazy” with messages, so he called his mom, wife and brother to let them know he was turning off the phone and settling in for the night. It was only 7:30, but the 5 a.m. wakeup calls and hours of golf were catching up to him.
Harvey slept soundly. Until 12:08.
“I looked at the clock … and I knew I wasn’t going to go back to sleep,” he said. “You’re so pumped up and so ready to play. I laid there 4 hours with my eyes closed, never went back to sleep.”
It didn’t matter. Harvey jumped to a 4-hole advantage after the morning round and prevailed 6-and-5 to win the Robert T. Jones Memorial Trophy – which he keeps for a year – and a gold medal that is his forever. After focusing so intently on every shot of every hole, he and Manning finally were able to celebrate.
“That guy helped me so much that week, staying focused, staying in every shot,” Harvey said of Manning. “I couldn’t have done it without Rocky. He’s the best.”
Manning, a Triad standout himself, is still looking to make it as a professional. He has known Harvey for 5 years and caddied for him in three USGA events. Manning, too, could sense that this had all the makings of a magical week if they could forget about the pressure and just play golf.
“Me knowing his game and having some other caddying experience, I felt we were a really good team,” Manning said. “We kept trying to do the same thing all week. A 155-yard shot is a 155-yard shot. I don’t care if it’s at the 18th hole of Augusta or at a driving range in the middle of nowhere. We were just going through the whole routine over and over and over. Every shot, decide on a number, no fear and doubt, just let it fly.”
Harvey also praised Triad golf coach Robert Linville for helping him let it fly with the driver on so many holes despite the tight fairways and punishing rough – staples of USGA tournaments that make even the PGA’s best look like amateurs at times in the U.S. Open. But Harvey managed to hit driver and hit it well time and time again.
“In USGA setups, it puts a premium on driving the ball in the fairway,” Harvey said. “It’s not like playing at your home club where you hit it in the rough and still score OK. You hit in the rough in a USGA and you’ve got to do something spectacular to make a par.”
His driving and putting earned high marks at the U.S. Mid-Am, with Harvey simply explaining that “I really hit a gear and played some really good golf.” One week later, Harvey downshifted a bit when he had to perform in the N.C. Mid-Amateur Championship at the Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham.
“Talk about tired,” Harvey said. “I gave it everything I had, mentally grinding 110 percent on every single shot for countless rounds. My brain was just fried. I couldn’t even think straight.”
Not that he embarrassed himself on the state level after his national win. Harvey tied for second with rounds of 71, 66 and 73, his 6-under-par total landing him one shot behind Joe Jaspers of Huntersville.
Harvey had one more USGA event ahead of him – the State Team Championship, in which he played with top Tar Heels Bo Andrews and Matthew Crenshaw in Indiana, against the top amateur trios from the rest of the country – before his well-deserved rest, relaxation and time with the family.
Much of the conversation about his future golf plans now surrounds the Masters. Each year, invitations are extended to the U.S., British, Asian, Public Links … and Mid-Am champions. Harvey has heard that he’ll likely get official mail from Augusta around Christmas.
Good luck topping that one, Santa. The invitation entitles Harvey and his team to practice privileges until the tournament begins April 9.
“I haven’t talked to a single person who hasn’t brought it up,” Harvey said. “I’m extremely excited about it right now, but it’ll really hit me when I get that and it’s official.”