CARLISLE, Pa. — Dan Walters will never forget his first national championship: the 2005 U.S. Amateur at Merion Golf Club.
“What an experience. I always tell the story,” Walters, 37, of Winston-Salem, N.C., said. “I had a late tee time on Monday. People are having lunch on the terrace. I couldn’t mark my golf ball [on the first tee]. My hands were shaking. But I made birdie [on No. 1], and it was all downhill from there. It was a good time.”
Sixteen years and countless competitive golf rounds later, those hands will sure be steadier for Walters’ second USGA appearance. The Old Town Club member carded a 4-under-par 67 to earn medalist honors in U.S. Mid-Amateur Qualifying administered by GAP (Golf Association of Philadelphia) at Carlisle Country Club (par 71, 6,400 yards).
Fellow North Carolina resident David Gies also advanced in regulation with a score of 3-under-par 68. Hannastown Golf Club’s Kevin Fajit secured the final qualifying spot in a sudden-death playoff.
The 40th U.S. Mid-Amateur will take place Sept. 25-30 at Sankaty Head Golf Club in Siasconset, Mass.
“The USGA events are the epitome of all of it, so I’m excited to play,” Walters, who tied for 10th in the 107th Carolinas Amateur Championship last month, said. “I feel like I’m playing some good golf. But you want to win, or you want to get to the most elite events. Thankfully, this is the best one there is for the middle-amateur game.”
Walters showed he belongs among the best Monday.
Starting on Carlisle’s back nine, he made the turn unscathed at even. Birdie opportunities came and went. His score, however, didn’t reflect his swing. Until an 18-footer for birdie on the gettable par 4, 251-yard No. 2 flipped a switch.
“That got me going,” Walters, who is Director of Sales for the Canusa Corporation, said. Canusa is a diversified paper, packaging and recyclable commodities company.
“The USGA events are the epitome of all of it, so I’m excited to play.”
A pair of 60-yard wedge shots on Nos. 4 (par 4, 364 yards) and 5 (par 4, 340 yards) set up birdies of three inches and 12 feet, respectively. The shaky hands of Merion past begone. Feeling calm and in control of his leaderboard position, Walters played the par 5, 501-yard with gusto. He hit a low slice-and-punch 3-wood from the right rough, which left Walters 50 yards from the front hole location. A laudable golf shot considering his position on the dogleg right. Walters lifted a wedge to five feet and buried the downhill breaker.
“The beautiful thing was I knew all I had to do was two-putt. I gave it a lot of break, and it found the hole,” he said.
In addition to his U.S. Amateur appearance, Walters made waves on the GAP circuit in the mid-2000s. The Lancaster, Pa. native and former Meadia Heights Golf Club member gained the BMW Philadelphia Amateur Championship quarterfinals in 2005 and semifinals in 2006. He also finished second in the 2005 Pennsylvania Golf Association Amateur Championship.
Walters turned professional in late 2006. He moved to Winter Park, Fla. and competed in Hooters Tour (now Swing Thought Tour) and mini-tour events. Of note, Walters finished as low professional in the 2008 Pennsylvania Golf Association Open Championship.
“I still have the $10,000 check in my basement,” he said.
Competition ceded to coaching. He became associate men’s head golf coach at Wake Forest University in 2009, a position he held until 2018. Walters regained his amateur status that year and gradually rekindled his love for competitive golf. In 2020, he finished second in the North Carolina Mid-Amateur Championship and third in the Carolinas Mid-Amateur Championship.
Despite the career change, Walters remains involved with the Wake Forest golf community. He happened to trade messages with alums Chad Wilfong and Davis Womble, who will both participate in the U.S. Mid-Amateur, in advance of Carlisle.
“They were saying, ‘Did you qualify?’ I said, ‘I’m playing Monday.’ They said, ‘Hopefully, we’ll see you up there.’ Then they’re talking about housing and all of these things,” Walters said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, let’s slow it down. I’m not there yet.’”
But he will be there, fellas.
Gies, playing in the group behind Walters Monday, is accustomed to the other side of the competitive coin these days. He began caddying for PGA TOUR star Johnson Wagner in February. Gies is on the road every week.
Nothing wrong with that, huh?
“I think it’s helped my game for sure. From a course strategy standpoint, watching those guys for a living makes everything so much easier,” Gies, 32, of Charlotte, N.C.
Gies assured his qualifying ticket with a birdie on No. 9. After nearly reaching the green in two with a hybrid from 220 yards, Gies knocked a wedge to 10 feet above the hole location. He canned the downhill slider.
Gies reached the quarterfinals in the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Fla. He also qualified for match play the following year, only to bow in the Round of 64.
“I’m pumped [to get back to the U.S. Mid-Amateur]. It’s always rewarding making it,” Gies said.
Like Gies, Fajt participated in the 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur. Unlike Gies, he missed out on match play that year, falling in a 21-for-2 playoff.
Perhaps Fajt’s fate at Sankaty will be different.
“I’m extremely happy. It’s been awhile since I’ve played in a USGA event,” Fajt, 43, of Greensburg, Pa., said. “I was 1 over through 14 holes, and I birdied (Nos.) 15, 16 and 18. I fought hard to get back to 2 under. I’m very happy to make it through. Now I’d love to make match play and see what happens.”
Fajt forced a playoff against playing partner Kevin Grady of Catonsville, Md. after a two-putt birdie from 17 feet on No. 18 (par 5, 501 yards). In the extra session, the Hannastown Golf Club member prevailed with a par on No. 8 (par 3, 214 yards), the second playoff hole. Fajt executed a flop shot from greenside left to two feet.
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 300 Member Clubs and 80,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
|Name, city, state||Score|
|Dan Walters, Winston-Salem, N.C.||67|
|David Gies, Pineville, N.C.||68|
|*Kevin Fajt, Greensburg, Pa.||69|
|Alternates (in order)|
|*Kevin Grady, Catonsville, Md.||69|
|*Clayton Davidson, Mechanicsburg, Pa.||70|
|Failed to qualify|
|*Zack Henry, Winchester, Va.||70|
|*Jarred Texter, Lancaster, Pa.||70|
|*William Wingerd, Nottingham, Md.||70|
|Jeff Frazier, Mechanicsburg, Pa.||71|
|Vince Kwon, Marlton, N.J.||71|
|Rich Berglund, Pittsburgh, Pa.||72|
|Ben Lukehart, Towson, Md.||72|
|Patrick Mitchell, Roaring Brook, Pa.||72|
|Nick Vecellio, Fogelsville, Pa.||72|
|Will Wears, Omaha, Nebraska||72|
|Michael Weinert, Syosset, N.Y.||72|
|John Meyers, Basking Ridge, N.J.||73|
|Oliver White, Lower Gwynedd, Pa.||73|
|Edward Armagost, National Park, N.J.||74|
|Daniel Hernandez, Mechanicsburg, Pa.||74|
|Kyle Hutnik, Easton, Pa.||74|
|Alejandro Urrea, Naples, Fla.||74|
|Drew Allenspach, Washington, D.C.||75|
|Chris Binder, Collingswood, N.J.||75|
|Dan Falls, Gaithersburg, Md.||75|
|Brendan Kelly, Baltimore, Md.||75|
|Ryan Richardson, Jarrettsville, Md.||75|
|Parker Williams, Bethesda, Md.||75|
|Zach Fischl, Bethlehem, Pa.||76|
|Chris Holland, Fayetteville, N.C.||76|
|Patrick McCormick, Bethesda, Md.||76|
|Ellis Messian, San Diego, Calif.||76|
|Jon Moles, Frederick, Md.||76|
|Chuck Nettles, McMurray, Pa.||76|
|Rob Pepi, Mineola, N.Y.||76|
|Robert Stoops, Gibsonia, Pa.||76|
|Josh Anderson, Morgantown, Pa.||77|
|Christopher Lawler, Riverton, N.J.||77|
|Rand Mendez, Wilmington, Del.||77|
|Gregory Sadowski, Middle River, Md.||77|
|Sam Varano, Schwenksville, Pa.||77|
|Daniel Hurley, Leesburg, Va.||78|
|Lee Nonnemacher, Richlandtown, Pa.||78|
|Todd Baron, Mullica Hill, N.J.||79|
|Keith Matt, Lower Gwynedd, Pa.||79|
|Joshua Mearkle, Leesburg, Va.||79|
|Tony Peressini, Doylestown, Pa.||79|
|Eric Plisko, Hanover Township, Pa.||79|
|Adam Scuilli, Pittsburgh, Pa.||79|
|Ryan Barnett, Bryn Mawr, Pa.||80|
|Rye Stinson, Columbia, Md.||80|
|Alex Pfeifer, Wexford, Pa.||81|
|John Lupica, Newtown, Pa.||82|
|Robert Maguire, Pottstown, Pa.||82|
|Joshua Michael, Winchester, Va.||82|
|Stuart Augustine, Fayetteville, N.C.||83|
|Brett Cybulski, Medford, N.J.||84|
|Jesse Mochoruk, Strasburg, Va.||86|
|Gerald Parker, Seaford, N.Y.||90|
|Jason Miller, Harrisburg, Pa.||91|
|Timothy Elliott, Glen Arm, Md.||NS|
|Calvin Greer, Philadelphia, Pa.||NS|
|John Lombardozzi, Herndon, Va.||NS|
|Bryan Ott, Allentown, Pa.||NS|
|Michael Rogers, Wayne, Pa.||WD|
|Richard Sovero, Catonsville, Md.||WD|
|Thomas Sutterfield, Bryans Road, Md.||WD|
|Todd Vonderheid, Lewisburg, Pa.||WD|
|Dan Walker, University Park, Md.||WD|
|Curtis Loop, New Canaan, Conn.||WD|
|Kirk Massie, Westport, Conn.||WD|
|Bucky Kenneff, Manheim, Pa.||WD|
|Joshua Krumholz, Reading, Pa.||WD|
|Craig Langslet, Westwood, N.J.||WD|
|Lance Bajkowski, Nottingham, Md.||WD|
|Max Bell, Chambersburg, Pa.||WD|
|Jeffrey Castle, Baltimore, Md.||WD|
|Christopher Davidson, Woodstock, Md.||WD|
|* – determined in playoff|
|NS – no show; WD – withdrawal|
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