"To be at Pete Dye’s baby, that was very honorable for me. I had trained on one of his golf courses, so you kind of know how he thinks. You know how to operate on a golf course. I really thought that was an advantage that week. I kind of understood his golf course.''


–James Taylor, 1989 USGA Mid-Amatuer Championship


“Pete Dye’s first great golf course celebrates its 25th birthday by hosting the 9th U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship,” announces the official tournament program. In hosting the 1989 event, Crooked Stick joins a prestigious list of previous host clubs, which include: Bellerive CC, Cherry Hills CC (William Flynn, 1923), Atlanta Athletic Club (Robert Trent Jones, 1967), and Prairie Dunes (Perry Maxwell, 1937 and Press Maxwell, 1957).


Club member Kent Frandsen, a USGA Mid-Amateur championship committeeman since the event’s inception is instrumental in bringing the championship to Crooked Stick. An accomplished player, Frandsen makes it to the quarter-final round in the inaugural 1981 Mid-Am at Bellerive before bowing out to eventual champion Jim Holtgrieve. Other Crooked Stick members also fare well in the event. In 1983, Craig Scheibert plays his way into the semi-final round at Cherry Hills, losing to eventual champion Jay Siegel. Crooked Stick members Jerry Nelson and “Doc” O’Neal also qualify for match play in the event’s first eight years.


In recognition of the tournament’s growing prestige, the 1989 Mid-Amateur has an added reward for the victor. For the first time in the championship’s history, the winner receives an invitation to play in the following years’ Masters tournament. In response, a record of 3,007 players enter the competition. A total of 150 players survive qualifying at sites across the country and earn their way to Crooked Stick for 36 holes of stroke play on October 2–3, 1989. Included in the field is the club’s Mark Mathews, the only Crooked Stick member to qualify.


After two days of 18-hole stroke play, the field is cut to the top 64 who move on to match play. Atop the field after 36 holes is Pennsylvanian Sean Knapp at nine-under-par 135. Dominating match play, however, is 30-year-old James Taylor of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida—son of USGA Executive Committee Member F. Morgan “Buzz” Taylor. The younger Taylor dispatches with 1988 champion David Eger 2 and 1 on his way to a faceoff with William Hadden of North Haven, Connecticut in the finals. In the championship match, Taylor gains the lead for good on the par-five fifth hole, then birdies the par-five ninth to go 2-up. Hadden closes the gap to one with a birdie of his own on the 10th, but Taylor all but decides the match with birdies at 12, 13, and 14 in succession to go dormie—four up with four to play. And when the two players halved the par-5 fifteenth, it is Taylor who stands alone in the winner’s circle with a decisive 4 and 3 victory.


A noted amateur player on the national scene, Taylor later pairs with Mid-Am runner-up William Hadden to win the Southern International Four-Ball championship in 1990 and 1991. Less than a year after his win at Crooked Stick, James Taylor becomes the first Mid-Amateur champion to play in the Masters.