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Marsh Might Be A Sleeper For 2013 Walker Cup Squad

LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS | The question of who is America’s best mid-amateur was settled rather emphatically last week at the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship at Conway Farms GC outside Chicago.
Nathan Smith, now a four-time Mid-Amateur champion and a two-time Walker Cupper, is unquestionably our nation’s best mid-amateur golfer. He has been so for at least the last five years. Although relatively quiet on the national scene this past summer, Smith was on his game all week and had to beat several other top-tier players on the way to making USGA history.
The question of who is second best was, in my estimation, also answered. At age 53 and despite being in that no-man’s land between mid and senior amateur golf, Mid-Amateur semifinalist Tim Jackson demonstrated once again that the golf ball neither knows nor cares how old you are. Had he not run into Smith in the semifinals, it could just as easily been Jackson who took home the Robert T. Jones Trophy.
But who is next?
Kevin Marsh’s name is one that is sometimes overlooked, but should be entered into this discussion. The 39-year-old Las Vegas resident is one of the toughest competitors out there, and he has been steadily building an impressive résumé over the past decade.
Marsh was a 1994 third-team All-American at Pepperdine University, from where he graduated in 1996. He tried the professional game, but gave it up after three years and was reinstated as an amateur in 2002.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Marsh said. “I just wasn’t ready to play professionally. I should have waited.”
But he has no regrets. One door closed, another opened, and for Marsh the door that opened was to the elite amateur game.
Since then, he has become a force in mid-amateur golf. He was a quarterfinalist in the 2004 Mid-Amateur, and then he won it in 2005 at The Honors Course in Tennessee. He beat Carlton Forrester that year, 10 and 9, the largest margin of victory in the 32-year history of the tournament.
This summer, Marsh won the California State Amateur, arguably the nation’s best state amateur competition. And he did so in front of many friends in his hometown of Santa Barbara, winning handily in a 36-hole final against 20-year-old Ben Geyer. Marsh blitzed the La Cumbre CC course in the final, making eight birdies and an eagle in 33 holes to add to his two Southern California Amateur titles.
Marsh was one of 94 reinstated amateurs in the field at the Mid-Amateur and is now a regular on the mid-amateur circuit. He won the Carlton Woods Invitational this year for the third time. He also has another role in the mid-amateur game – organizing the Crane Cup, a new mid and senior amateur tournament played in the final week of January at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla.
Veteran California competitor Tim Hogarth once observed that Marsh is one of the best putters he has ever seen, and Marsh acknowledges that putting is an advantage he enjoys. Most players will frown when they read that he doesn’t practice putting that much. To Marsh’s way of thinking, putting is mental. His keys are to stay aggressive and never worry about the next putt. And unlike many players, he focuses more on speed than line.
“If you don’t have the speed down, it doesn’t matter what the line is,” he told me at Conway Farms last week.
Marsh enjoys a luxury that many mids don’t have; he plays a lot of golf. This doesn’t come without certain sacrifices, but he is doing what he enjoys and makes no apology for doing so. He is, and will remain, a career amateur. And as he points out, he has done things in golf that many pros will never do, such as playing in The Masters, which he did in 2006 by virtue of his U.S. Mid-Amateur title.
Marsh has a curious history with Conway Farms. At the 1997 NCAA Division I Championship, Pepperdine coach John Geiberger came down with chickenpox and was quarantined in his hotel room. Marsh, who had graduated from Pepperdine five months earlier, happened to be in the area for an upcoming Hooters Tour event and was asked to serve as the team’s coach. The Waves went on to win the championship, its only tournament win of the 1996-97 season. “A couple of guys had their best college tournament ever that week,” is how he describes what happened.
Marsh showed his mettle at Conway Farms last week, rebounding from a poor opening stroke-play round of 78 by shooting 1-under-par 70 to easily advance to match play. He then had to birdie the final two holes to get past Dan Horner in the first round of match play before falling in the second round to Michael Muehr, another reinstated amateur.
With his tournament toughness and silky putting stroke, Marsh just might make an excellent addition to Captain Jim Holtgrieve’s 2013 Walker Cup squad. In fact, any combination of Marsh, Jackson and Smith could help reclaim the Cup for the U.S. next fall at the National Golf Links.


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