As he was running away with Regions Cup amateur golf series player of the year honors last summer, Mitch Marchman felt there was something missing.
The 31-year-old Waynesboro insurance man thought he should have shot lower scores than he did en route to three victories in six starts.
For the three events he won -- the Gordon Uhl/Golf Capital Invitational, the Camellia Classic and the Orville White Cup -- he was a combined two-under par. Marchman failed to break 70 in any of those eight rounds.
With the season-opening Uhl/Golf Capital starting today, Marchman thinks a new cross-handed putting style will bring him lower numbers.
"I'm not saying I'm making everything now, but I'm rolling it better than I ever have," Marchman said. "I'm real excited about that. Being a streaky putter has always been my weakness.
"I hope to catch my putter up to where my ballstriking normally is," Marchman said. "I'm going to be much more aggressive on the greens. Before, I've been afraid not to mess up. I've always lived my life on the greens thinking I was a poor putter. I figured if I didn't mess up on the greens I'd be in contention."
Marchman won the Regions Cup player of the year award by 131 points. In addition to winning three times, he was fourth twice and tied for fifth in his other start.
Marchman could have won a fourth tournament. In the Persimmon Hill Classic, he finished fourth, three shots out of a playoff despite making a 13 on the par-5 11th hole in the first round. He shot 79 that day and followed it up with a 70.
Marchman plans to play in at least six of the 10 Regions Cup events this year.
"I've got goals for myself, but golf is too fickle to say there is a top player," Marchman said. "It's a matter of competing against myself and the course. You're going to have guys who play good and you can't control that. I want to handle myself. I see myself as being more consistent with my putter. That's the big goal. The rest of it will take care of itself."
Marchman's Regions Cup season ended with the former Georgia Southern golfer on the sidelines for the season-ending Regions Cup Matches in early October.
A herniated disc in his lower back, which has troubled him since his college days, was the culprit. Not only could Marchman not play in the Regions Cup Matches, but he couldn't play golf for more than six months.
"I'd never had it that bad as I did then," Marchman said. "My left leg was going numb and I couldn't walk. It locked up on me. That's what got my attention."
After unsuccessful results with one doctor, Marchman went to the Medical College of Georgia. Treatment there put him back on the golf course in late March.
"The good thing about my herniated disc is it's herniated out and away from the spine and not sideways against the nerve all the time," Marchman said. "It hits the nerve sometimes, but not all the time. At this point, they don't want to operate on me. They think it can be rehabilitated through exercise. I can't get lazy with it."
Marchman is third on the all-time Regions Cup list in career victories with five. Before winning three times in 1999, he won once in 1991 and once in 1992. He turned pro for a short stretch in 1992, failing to make it through PGA Tour Qualifying School. He did have some strong finishes in mini-tour events, but gave up the dream later in 1992.
"I didn't have the means to keep at it," Marchman said. "I had to get a job."
He regained his amateur status in 1994, but didn't play a full Regions Cup schedule until 1999. Now, he's hooked on the series, which went from eight tournaments to 10 this season. The new tournaments are at Savannah Lakes Village and River Golf Club.
"Steve Foss (the Regions Cup executive director) is doing a wonderful job," Marchman said. "The caliber of the courses in the series is what is so impressive. I don't know anywhere else where you could play in tournaments like this. There are a lot of good players around the country that don't get this form of competition we get during the summer."
1991: Orville White Cup
1992: Sunbelt Nissan Ama-Tour
1999: Gordon Uhl/Golf Capital Invitational
1999: Camellia Classic
1999: Orville White Cup
1999: Regions Cup player of the year
Golf Capital 73-70 -- 143, Won
Persimmon Hill Classic 79-70 -- 149, T4
Augusta City Amateur 72-73-72 -- 217, 4
Camellia Classic 71-71 -- 142, Won
Perry Watson Memorial 74-71 -- 145, T5
Orville White Cup 71-70 -- 141, Won
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