This is the weekend the kids and the old men (at least some of them), as well as the very young and more mature women step aside. This is the weekend of FSGA Mid-Amateur Championships. There are two qualifications to enter the inaugural Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship. First, you must be age 25 or older (being carded is sometimes flattering). There is no ceiling as far as age in either the men’s or women’s championship as the FSGA believes you’re as old as you feel. Second, you must have a competitive game, or at least possess a competitive spirit. Entry into the FSGA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play Championship also includes an exempt list of players due to past history. Some may look at the inaugural FSGA Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship as a bit of excess, given the ambitious women’s tournament schedule. Others look at this new tournament as another ambitious effort to build women’s golf in the Sunshine State. Count Meghan Martinek, FSGA Director of women’s golf, among the latter. “We moved the Women’s Amateur from May to June so we could attract the top collegiate and high school players, so we felt we should add something to fill that space in the schedule,” she said. Once the decision was made, the FSGA had to decide what format to run. Another four-ball? Better-ball? Those would have been too easy. Martinek, et al., opted to blaze a new trail and went the Mid-Amateur route. “It’s a tough age to cater to,” Martinek said. “But we’ve had some golfers in that age group who have had some success.” Gee, she couldn’t have been talking about four-time U.S. Women’s Mid- Amateur champion Meghan Stasi, could she? You can be sure the name popped up, but before you clear a space in the Stasi trophy case, remember there will be other formidable forces who would love to have their name be the first that gets engraved. Before anyone gets near the trophy, the winner not only will have to deal with stern competition from the field, but also will have to solve the nuances of Club de Bonmont at Plantation Bay Golf & Country Club in Ormond Beach. It’s the type of course that demands a relentless strategy, and that includes deciding where the preferable area is to miss a green to increase the odds of a par save. Also, the winner will be the player who trusts her game when faced with any of the many risk-reward chances and the proper decision as to whether or not to go for it.
Don Bell will step on the first tee at Vero Beach Country Club greeting his fellow competitors as the defending champion of the FSGA Mid-Amateur Stroke Play event. He knows how tenuous his position is, as he had to defeat Tampa’s Tim Hume in a sudden-death playoff to save the title. In the final round last year, Bell led on the back nine but fell to the playoff with a couple of late bogeys. “Last year, I had to shake off some rust to get into the flow,” said Bell, who hails from Port Orange. “I hit a good drive on the first playoff hole and Tim had some problems and I won.” Bell would like to say he’s dedicated himself to golf earlier this season so he’ll be sharper when the bell rings this week. But he can’t. His reasoning is the same as 99.9 percent of amateurs. “You know how it is,” he said, wistfully. “You have your family, your job and if there’s any time left, you practice golf. I’ve been practicing a couple of times a week and played once, maybe twice if I’m lucky. I’m a little behind schedule.” There’s a good chance Bell’s practice schedule might be escalated as the summer months pass. He just turned 49. And there’s a provision that he can try to qualify for the Champions Tour and if he doesn’t make it, he can still retain amateur status. “You’re never satisfied with your preparation,” he said. “I feel like there’s one thing I can count on. I’m a good putter and that keeps me competitive.” Having a reliable putter will serve any player well in Vero Beach. The course won’t overpower anyone with length, but if you continually hit the ball to the wrong position and/or fire at a pin that’s inaccessible, the experience will be painful. When trying to get a strategic pointer or two, the most valuable information may be where not to hit it. Look for the mental challenge to be strongest down the stretch in the final four holes. Given the right wind conditions, the 15th is a reachable par-5. It’s also missable. Coming in from an angle opens up ball-repelling mounds and other problems. The 17th, a 152-yard par-3, offers a legitimate birdie chance. And when you look at the scorecard, so does the 360-yard par- 4 18th. But if you miss the elevated green to the right or short, you’ll need either a snorkel or a shovel to play your third shot. In the end, perhaps some of the younger phenoms might do well to spend a day watching the veterans outthink a golf course, rather than overpower it.