Jeff Butler, a Sacramento-area player, secured a spot in the 41st U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship by advancing in a qualifier in early August at Serrano Country Club in El Dorado Hills. Butler was one of three players to advance from a U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying on Monday, Aug. 1. He finished second, shooting a 3-under-par 69, during a round that was highlighted by an eagle and four birdies. Jimmy Castles of Cupertino was the medalist with a 4-under 68. Stephen Hale of Bakersfield tied for third with a 2-under 70.
It’s the first time that Butler – who has been a member of North Ridge Country Club in Fair Oaks for the last three years – has qualified for a U.S. Golf Association championship. “I was actually very close in my junior days with qualifying for the U.S. Junior Am,” he said. “I will say that it’s always a goal of any competitive golfer to get into those USGA events. It’s the top of the top.”
Butler, a resident of El Dorado Hills, will be joined by his wife, Mandy, who will also be caddying in the event at Erin Hills in Erin, Wis., and Blue Mound Golf & Country Club, in Wauwatosa, Wis.
“We’re going to enjoy it. Hopefully, we’re playing good, but it’s just an honor to be able to participate in one of our national championships for golf,” said Jeff Butler, 39. “It’s incredibly exciting to be able to do it.”
Erin Hills is the championship venue, and Blue Mound Golf & Country Club is the stroke-play co-host venue for the 2022 U.S. Mid-Amateur, scheduled for Sept. 10-15. Erin Hills is a par-71, 7,369-yard layout. Blue Mound Golf & Country Club is a par-70, 6,744-yard layout. The field consists of 264 players. The U.S. Golf Association accepted 5,708 entries, a record number for the event. The U.S. Mid-Amateur, according to the USGA, is open to any amateur golfer who has reached their 25th birthday as of Sept. 10 and whose Handicap Index does not exceed 3.4. The USGA said qualifying, over 18 holes, will take place at 68 sites between July 27 to Aug. 24.
Besides Serrano, qualifying in Northern California was also held at Diablo Country Club on Aug. 8 and The Fountaingrove Club in Santa Rosa on Aug. 22. “I’m certainly honored to be able to go and represent our club here at North Ridge, but more importantly, represent my family, who has been around golf and watched me play golf for the last 25 years,” said Butler.
Rounds 1 and 2 of stroke play are Sept. 10 and 11. This is followed by match play, starting on Sept. 12 with the Round of 64. The low 64 scorers following stroke play will qualify for match play. It continues with the Round of 32 and Round of 16, Sept. 13; quarterfinals and semifinals of match play, Sept. 14; and the 36-hole championship match, Sept. 15.
The USGA said the winner receives, in addition to a gold medal:
- Custody of the Robert T. Jones Jr. Memorial Trophy for one year.
- Exemption into the 2023 U.S. Open at The Los Angeles Country Club.
- Exemptions from qualifying for the next 10 U.S. Mid-Amateurs.
- Exemptions from qualifying for the next two U.S. Amateurs.
- Erin Hills hosted the 2008 U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links, 2011 U.S. Amateur, and 2017 U.S. Open.
Jeff Butler’s Background in Golf
Butler is originally from Ada, Oklahoma. Ada is 83 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.
He played his junior golf at Oak Hills Golf & Country Club. When he was 11, Butler went to a week-long golf camp at Oklahoma State University. The camp was directed by Mike Holder, who led the golf program for 32 years as the head coach. He is the Director of Athletics Emeritus at Oklahoma State.
“I got to go and spend a week there with their college team. I’ll say that it inspired me to continue to work and get better,” said Butler. “At the end of the week, they have a little tournament for the campers that are there. I ended up winning that tournament, kind of out of nowhere, and not so different, to be quite honest than in this (U.S. Mid-Amateur) qualifier because I’m not really well known here in the local area.”
It was during that week of camp where Butler said the passion and drive for competitive golf took shape for him. “They had it over U.S. Open week. Steve Jones ended up winning that year (1996). I just remember sitting in the dormitories there at Oklahoma State, at that golf camp, watching the U.S. Open and getting better and just really becoming passionate about the game that we love,” he said.
Butler was a top player in Oklahoma and was twice named All-State for Ada High School as a junior and senior. He graduated from Ada High in 2001. He was recruited by Southwestern Oklahoma State University and was offered a golf scholarship to play for the Bulldogs.
Butler moved to Bakersfield and walked on for golf at Cal State Bakersfield in 2002. He played in a few qualifying tournaments but elected to focus on his academics and all the work that goes into being a chemistry major. “It was tough, with the travel and the practice demands. I just really couldn’t balance that out,” he said. Butler graduated from CSU Bakersfield in 2006 with a chemistry degree. He got his Ph.D. in 2010 from UC Davis in organic synthesis. He completed a postdoc in natural product synthesis at the University of Texas in Austin.
Butler is the president of Ampac Fine Chemicals, based in Rancho Cordova. It’s a U.S.-based custom manufacturer of fine pharmaceutical chemicals, according to its website, ampacfinechemicals.com. Ampac Fine Chemicals is a contract manufacturer for various pharmaceutical companies. Butler is in charge of the company’s facilities in Rancho Cordova, Houston, and Virginia. “I don’t get to practice as much as I would like. It’s a balance,” said Butler. “The game had gotten kind of back to where it used to be when I was playing a lot in high school, so it’s good.”
Butler started getting back into golf when his two sons, Will, 8, and Davis, 4, picked up the game as juniors. “They’re in junior golf at North Ridge. What really ended up happening is after the boys got a little older and were able to be out all day, we got them introduced to golf. We joined out here, and I could kind of dust off the game and really enjoy getting back into competitive amateur golf. I’ve been doing that for the last couple of years, trying to continue to get better. I’ve played in some local amateur tournaments here and have played in the club tournaments here at North Ridge,” he said.
Butler played in the 101st annual Sacramento City Men’s Golf Championship June 11 and 12 at the
Alister MacKenzie Golf Course at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex. It’s a Sacramento Golf Council event and is also a Northern California Golf Association points tournament. Butler tied for 31st, shooting 76-72 – 148.
Qualifying at Serrano
At the qualifier, Butler birdied the par-4, 441-yard third hole, and the par-5, 510-yard eighth hole.
He birdied the par-4, 369-yard 10th hole, and the par-5, 544-yard 14th hole.
His eagle-3 came on the par-5, 505-yard 13th hole. On No. 13, he hit the driver to the middle of the fairway and hit a 4-iron from 230 yards out to six feet of the pin. He made the putt. “I had it rolling pretty good,” he said. “I’ve always been a good ball striker. And so, the long game was there. I was able to roll in a few putts throughout the round that really mattered.”
He saved par by making a 15-foot uphill putt on the par-3, 183-yard 11th hole. “That really held the round together. I was able to kind of keep that momentum,” he said.
He hit his second shot close on No. 10 to four feet and made the birdie putt.
“It’s just a matter of kind of keeping things together and hitting some good solid shots coming in,” said Butler. “It was just a matter of trying to make sure of maintaining concentration and getting that round done.”
There was a field of 72 players at the qualifier.
Butler said he has been working very hard on his putting for the last six-plus months.
“Getting the putter working has been a big focus. I knew that my game is in good shape. It’s just a matter of concentrating on the speed control around putting,” he said. “I was fortunate to have some good putts go down.”
Butler’s caddie at the qualifier was his wife, Mandy. It was the first time she had ever caddied. She will also caddie for Jeff at the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
“Hopefully, the golf game stays sharp from now until then,” said Jeff Butler.
He is a big supporter of junior golf in the Sacramento area – in particular First Tee – Greater Sacramento, an organization led by Executive Director Angie Dixon. “I grew up around junior golf in Oklahoma. We also support the First Tee. I’m a big supporter of what the First Tee does here in Sacramento. Angie Dixon does just a wonderful job. What’s going on in Sacramento, as far as junior golf, is incredibly exciting.”
Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.