Golf: Elgin’s Bill Hoffer recalls 1982 U.S. Mid-Amateur title
By Erik Jacobsen firstname.lastname@example.org September 5, 2012 5:46PM
Elgin resident Bill Hoffer won the U.S. Mid-Amateur championship 30 years ago at Knollwood Club in Lake Forest. The tournament returns to Lake Forest this weekend. | Sun-Times Media File
Updated: October 7, 2012 7:46AM
This weekend 264 golfers will descend upon north suburban Lake Forest for the U.S. Mid-Amateur tournament with hopes of becoming a national champion.
For Elgin resident Bill Hoffer, the challenge is one he knows well.
Thirty years ago Hoffer reached the pinnacle of his successful amateur golf career with a 3-and-2 victory in the championship match of the 1982 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Knollwood Club in Lake Forest.
Knollwood is the companion course to 2012 tournament host Conway Farms Golf Club this time around, and for Hoffer the tournament’s return to the area brings back a flood of memories on the 30th anniversary of his victory.
“The whole process was unbelievable,” Hoffer said. “The final match was on my son’s first birthday. He’ll be 31 this year, so that’s a great memory every year. It’s kind of scary that all of a sudden it’s been 30 years.”
The U.S. Mid-Amateur, which is run by the USGA, is open to any amateur golfer age 25 or older and is designed to determine the best post-college amateur golfer in the country. Among those in the field this year are St. Charles residents Rich Balla and Nick Schenk.
The tournament begins with 36 holes of stroke play at Knollwood and Conway Farms on Saturday and Sunday, after which the field will be cut to the low 64 scorers. The scene then shifts exclusively to Conway Farms for six rounds of match play starting next Monday, culminating with a 36-hole championship match Sept. 13. Admission is free throughout the event.
The winner of the U.S. Mid-Amateur earns an exemption to The Masters next spring. That wasn’t the case when Hoffer won in 1982, but his victory did help him land a spot on the Walker Cup team, which in turn led to a spot in the 1984 Masters.
Hoffer remembers being on top of his game for much of the week at the 1982 Mid-Amateur, with the one exception being the final match, which he said wasn’t the greatest display of golf since he and his opponent were battling nerves.
Several years ago Hoffer sent the putter he used to win the Mid-Amateur to the USGA Museum in Bernards Township, N.J., where it will remain stored as a piece of golf history.
“I obviously have great memories of the tournament,” Hoffer said. “I played very well that week. I was at the right place at the right time.”
Hoffer has a busy schedule as president of Hoffer Plastics in South Elgin and said he typically plays only one round of golf per week. Nonetheless, he still maintains a scratch handicap.
The Larkin graduate and Elgin Sports Hall of Fame inductee’s accomplishments on the golf course are many. Hoffer won the 1983 Illinois Open, competed in several other U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Amateur events, and holds the course record at Elgin Country Club with a 63. But nothing will ever compare to his victory at the 1982 Mid-Amateur.
“The Mid-Am has to be the one at the top,” Hoffer said. “I won the state amateur and the state open, but the Mid-Am was so unique. It led to the Walker Cup and then to the Masters, so it’s got to stand out. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing that I’ll always remember.”
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