McClean Wins All-Irish U.S. Mid-Am Final
September 17, 2022
By Michael R Fermoyle
ERIN, Wis. -- Matthew McClean and Hugh Foley had played each other twice this year before they met this week in their All-Irish, 36-hole final at Erin Hills in the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
Foley had won both times. First, he beat his friend McClean in the North of Ireland Men's Open Amateur at Royal Portrush, then he beat him again in the South of Ireland Men's Open Amateur at Lahinch. In doing so, he became the first person to win both of those titles since Darren Clarke completed the double in 1990.
On Friday morning, they set up a third match between the two of them at the Mid-Amateur when Foley defeated Bryce Hanstad, the 2022 MGA Mid-Players champion, 3&2, and McClean dispatched former University of Minnesota star Josh Persons by the same score.
"It was hard not to think that it was going to be three in a row, that I was going to get beat," McClean admitted after their title match.
But this one was different. Foley, a 25-year-old from Dublin, won the first hole of the championship match Friday afternoon, but McClean won the next three holes in a row. It was back to all square by the time they reached the 12th hole, after Foley had won the seventh and the 10th with birdies, but then McClean won another three in a row. Foley won the 18th hole to get back to 2 down just before they ended play Friday night, the match to be continued Saturday morning. But Foley never got closer than 2 down for the rest of the match. McClean, a 29-year-old optometrist from Belfast, withstood three birdies in a row by Foley on the back nine during the second 18 Saturday morning, and he won the 17th hole -- the 35th of the match -- to seal his 3&1 victory.
McClean thus became the second USGA champion from Ireland. Padraig Harrington became the first earlier this summer, when he won the U.S. Senior Open.
This match was actually supposed to be played in its entirety on Thursday, but a little more than 4 inches of rain fell on Erin Hills on Sunday, and more than 5 inches hit Blue Mound Golf & Country Club, the other course that was being used for the stroke-play qualifying part of the Mid-Am. So the tournament was basically a day and a half behind from then on.
McClean and Foley are longtime golf buddies. They came to the U.S. together, shared a rental car, and also a residence, the house of Foley's caddie, Dan Benedum.
Their original goal was just to make the cut, which they did easily. Foley opened the medal-play qualifying with a 66 a Blue Mound and followed it with a 70 at Erin Hills. The resulting 36-hole total of 136 put him in a tie for fouth, and he got the No. 5 seed. McClean went in reverse order, opening with a 72 at Blue Mound but coming back with a 66 at Erin Hills, for a 138 and a tie for sixth. He was the Nol. 7 seed.
In the final, Foley led for only one hole, after his par at No. 1 (503 yards, par 4). McClean won the 366-yard, par-4 second with a birdie, the 431-yard, par-4 third with a par and the 444-yard, par-4 fourth with a conceded birdie, after Foley failed to make par. After McClean went 3 up by winning the 12th (birdie), 13th (birdie) and 14th (par), they halved the next three holes.
McClean made a mess of 663-yard, par-5 18th, and after he had taken eight whacks, he conceded Foley's birdie putt from the fringe. When the match resumed Saturday morning, the long and daunting first hole was halved with bogeys, but then McClean won No. 2 (the 20th hole of the match) with a par to go 3 up once again, and he went 4 up when he won the par-4 sixth (198 yards) with a par.
Foley came right back, winning the 590-yard, par-5 seventh with a birdie, only to see McClean win the 167-yard ninth with a par and go 4 up again. He was 5 up after winning the 441-yard, par-4 12th with a birdie, but after the 10th and 11th holes were tied with pars, Foley birdied the 142-yard, par-3 13th, the 604-yard, par-5 14th and the 369-yard, par-4 15th, all with birdies, and cut the deficit to 2 down.
As impressive as his comeback was, it ended there.
He couldn't keep making birdies forever, and McClean tied his par at the par-3 16th, then won the 475-yard, par-4 17th with a par, and that was it.
"It was had to sort of hang in there," McClean said, "but I didn't really do a huge amount wrong. So I just sort of felt if I kept on doing what I was doing, hopefully he wouldn't birdie the last six holes against me. That was the plan, and thankfully, it just sort of worked out in the end."
At Erin Hills (7,309 yards, par 71)
& Blue Mound Golf & Country Club (6,766 yards, par 70)
Stroke-play qualifying (the top 64 finishers advanced to match play)
T1. Jake Shuman -7 68EH - 66BM -- 134
T1. Sam Jones -7 67BM - 67EH -- 134
3. Dalton Melnyk - 6 65EH - 70BM -- 135
T4. Hugh Foley -5 66BM - 70EH -- 136
T4. Andrew Bailey -5 70EH - 66BM -- 136
T6. Sam Foust -3 67BM - 71EH -- 138
T6. Matthew McClean -3 72BM - 66EH -- 138
T6. Matthew Naumec -3 67BM - 71EH -- 138
T9. James Leow -2 65BM - 74EH -- 139
T9. Ryan Gutowski -2 69EH - 70BM -- 139
T9. Chad Wilfong -2 70EH - 69BM -- 139
T9. Ian Davis -2 71EH - 68BM -- 139
T9. Mark Costanza -2 69EH - 70BM -- 139
T9. Stewart Hagestad -2 64BM - 75EH -- 139
T9. Brad Nurski -2 72EH - 67BM -- 139
T28. Josh Persons +1 73BM - 69EH -- 142
T28. Bryce Hanstad +1 70BM - 72EH -- 142
Did not make the cut -- 144 (17-for-12 playoff)
T154. Max Tylke +8 75EH - 74BM -- 149
T154. Joe Gullion +8 74BM - 75EH -- 149
T223. Robert Newbold +14 78BM - 77EH -- 155
WD Sammy Schmitz 75BM
(The match-play portion of the tournament is being played at Erin Hills.)
Round of 64
(1) Jake Shuman def. (64) Austin Spicer 1 up
(32) Bryce Hanstad def. (33) Connor Lyon 3&2
(8) Sam Foust 1 up on (57) Mitchell Ford through 4 holes
(40) Andrew Paysse def. (25) Hayes Brown 1 up
(4) Andrew Bailey def. (61) John Quigley 1 up
(5) Hugh Foley def. (60) Alex Turner 3&1
(2) Sam Jones def. (63) Christian Raynor 5&4
(7) Matthew McClean def. (58) Christopher Anderson 6&4
(3) Dalton Melnyk 2&1 def. def. Matt Parziale 2&1
(35) Josh Persons def. (30) Pat Wilson 4&2
(14) Stewart Hagestad def. (51) Jason Schultz 2&1
(59) Chris Thayer def. (6) Matthew Naumec 2&1
Round of 32
(32) Hanstad def. (1) Shuman 1 up
(48) Ryan Greer def. (16) Thad Hudgens 5&4
(40) Andrew Paysse def. (8) Foust 1 up
(9) Ian Davis def. (24) Yaroslav Merkulov 2&1
(4) Bailey def. (29) Ryan Plitz 4&3
(5) Foley def. (28) Sam Jackson 3&2
(34) Scott Turner def. (2) Jones 3&2
(7) McClean def. (39) Casey Carnes 3&2
(10) Brad Nurski def. (42) Christian Sease 6&5
(35) Persons def. (3) Melnyk 2&1
(14) Hagestad def. (19) Stephen Hale 2&1
Round of 16
(32) Hanstad def. (48) Greer 5&4
(40) Paysse def. (9) Davis 1 up
(13) Chad Wilfong def. (4) Andrew Bailey 2&1
(5) Foley def. (12) Ryan Gutowski 5&3
(34) Turner def. (15) James Leow 4&3
(7) McClean def. (10) Nurski 20 holes
(35) Persons def. (14) Hagestad 1 up
(38) Scott Harvey def. (11) Mark Costanza 3&2
(32) Hanstad def. (40) Paysse 19 holes
(5) Foley def. (13) Wilfong 2 up
(7) McClean def. (34) Turner 2&1
(35) Persons def. (38) Harvey 21 holes
(5) Foley def. (32) Hanstad 3&2
(7) McClean def. (35) Persons 3&2
(7) McClean def. (5) Foley 3&1