John Patterson's most recent visit to the Chicago area did not go as hoped.
Patterson, a Bluffton resident and former professional golfer trying for the first time to play major amateur events, bowed out of the Western Amateur without qualifying for match play.
A simple equipment change turned things around. Patterson recently switched back to a steel-shafted driver after almost two years trying graphite models.
Back in Chicago this week for the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Conway Farms Golf Club, Patterson has enjoyed a successful start. He qualified for match play after finishing tied for fourth during the 36-hole stroke play portion. He won his first match Monday 1-up, dispatching Robert Stelben Jr., from Darien, Conn.
"I've driven the ball better this week than I have in a year and a half," Patterson said.
Hilton Head Island High School teacher Todd White won his opening match 6 and 5, rolling over Jon Lindstrom, from Broomfield, Colo. White's big victory followed a second-place finish in stroke play. He shot rounds of 70-72 to finish even par, a stroke behind medalist Brad Valois.
White and Patterson advance to today's round of 32. Patterson will face Ryan Patrick, from Vienna, Va., starting at 7:30 a.m. White will tee off at 8:20 a.m. facing Mason Casper.
Two other golfers with local ties did not qualify for match play.
Former Hilton Head High golfer Patrick Datz finished 13 over for the 36 holes. Bluffton resident Kevin King shot rounds of 83-73 to finish 14 over.
For Patterson, this is his first United States Golf Association event and his first experience with match play since his days of college golf at Ferris State. He was 3-up through 12 holes Monday before Stelben won three consecutive holes to square the match. A par at the par-3 17th was good enough for Patterson to go 1-up. The players halved the final hole at Conway Farms.
"The golf course is playing really solid," said Patterson, the marketing and sales director at Chechessee Creek Club. "The wind picked up after we played the first five or six holes and probably blew 12-15 (miles per hour) the rest of the day."