PINEHURST, N.C. – In many ways, Scott Harvey is a typical 41-year-old. He’s a married father of two, which comes with all the attendant daily parental duties. And he’s a dedicated golfer who doesn’t play as much as perhaps he’d like, which is not all that unusual among most his age.
Where Harvey turns right when most middle-aged guys turn left is that he is one of the best amateurs in the country. He has brought his part-time golf game to Pinehurst for this week’s U.S. Amateur, one of a 312-player field that began stroke-play qualifying on Monday (scores).
Harvey shot 2-over 72 at the No. 4 course at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club and will compete today at the No. 2 course in an attempt to finish among the low 64 scorers who will move on to compete in match play, beginning Wednesday (tee times). The scheduled 36-hole final will be contested on Nos. 2 and 4 on Sunday.
Harvey comes into this week with quite the resume. He won the 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur to put him on the national map. He was runner-up in the U.S. Mid-Am in 2016 when Stewart Hagestad made birdies on four of the last five holes in regulation and a birdie on the first extra hole to win, 1 up.
His U.S. Mid-Am victory propelled him to the elite among the 25-plus age group. In 2016, he won the prestigious George C. Thomas Invitational at Los Angeles Country Club – the first of three straight wins in the Thomas. He has won the George L. Coleman Invitational at storied Seminole Country Club twice in the past three years. And earlier this year, Harvey teamed with Todd Mitchell to win the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.
But these days, he insists that if he’s not playing in a tournament, he hardly plays golf at all. He’s a member at Sedgefield Country Club in his hometown of Greensboro, N.C. – the site of the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship – and says he’s played there four times this year.
The first time Harvey played No. 4 was last Saturday in a practice round. He hasn’t played since competing in the Porter Cup in late July. Which makes it all the more difficult to maintain golf at a high level.
“Through June, my game was as good as it’s ever been,” Harvey said. “The last couple of years have been for me that I’ll play in a tournament and I won’t play again until the next tournament. I’ve hit some balls; I just haven’t played.”
Harvey is competing in his ninth U.S. Amateur and his 31st USGA championship. But for mid-amateurs, the U.S. Am is dominated by college players and is a mid-am wasteland. It has been 26 years since a mid-am won the U.S. Amateur, when a 41-year-old John Harris took the Havemeyer Trophy in 1993.
“A different set of priorities would be the main reason,” Harvey said. “When I come here, I have to make sure a long list of things is taken care of before I leave. With the college kids, or any young kid, all they have to make sure of is their tee time.
“I’ve got work, kids, I have a sick 9-month-old at home,” said Harvey, a property manager. “It’s just a whole different mindset. But once I show up, it’s the same. They are able to prepare like a Tour player all year, whereas I started to prepare on Saturday when I played my first practice round.”
Given those circumstances, Harvey wasn’t altogether upset with his first round of stroke play. “After my practice rounds, as bad as I played, I would have taken 72 today and not even have gone out there,” he said. “I’m just not sharp right now, and if you’re not sharp on these courses, you’re going to pay the price. I’m just fortunate I was on [No. 4] and not [No. 2]. This would have been an 80 [on No. 2].”
However, that doesn’t mean Harvey has low expectations. “I expect to excel just like I do at any other tournament,” he said.
And he gives no quarter to players half his age. “I have no problems with distance,” he said. “The golf ball has no idea how old I am.” Harvey hit driver and 4-iron to the 512-yard, par-4 second hole at No. 4 and a driver and 7-iron to the 487-yard, par-4 18th. “I don’t feel like there’s any shot they can hit that I can’t hit.”
What Harvey brings to the table is experience. “Being able to get in a spot, and sometimes you just have to take your medicine instead of trying to pull off a heroic shot and make a double or triple,” he said. “I think I saved myself a couple of shots today by trying to make bogey and not anything worse. Around here, anything can happen.
“I’m moving in the right direction. I just need some more course time. Hopefully, I’ll survive [Tuesday] and get some more course time on Wednesday.”
Mike Purkey has written about golf for more than 30 years for a number of publications, including Golf Magazine and Global Golf Post. He lives in Charlotte, N.C. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mikepurkeygolf