A pair of amateurs – both qualifying round medalists – Danny Harcourt of Shackamaxon and Mike Muehr of Pine Valley,  fired a five-under-par 66 to share the lead after the opening round of the 99th New Jersey State Golf Association Open Championship on Monday at the par-71, 6,840-yard Trump National Golf Club (New Course) in Bedminster.

Harcourt, 22, a recent graduate of Gettysburg College and a resident of Fanwood, won the Open qualifier at Essex Fells Country Club on June 24 when he shot a three-under-par 67.

Mike Muehr, 47, of Pine Valley, a native of Bernardsville and now a resident of Potomac Falls, Va., fired a three-under-par 68 to win the Open qualifier at Old York at Chesterfield on July 2.

Harcourt and Muehr’s stellar opening rounds were the highlight of the day which ended prematurely due to a severe weather suspension at 5:30 p.m. Round 1 is set to be completed Tuesday morning, with Round 2 to begin on time.

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Chris Gotterup of Rumson, 20, a rising junior at Rutgers University who sas second team All-Big Ten this spring, stands just one stroke back of the leaders at 67, followed by amateur Steve Zychowski of Mendham, 27, and professional Tyler Hall of Upper Montclair, a two-time Open champion, both at three-under-par 68.

Play was suspended by lightning  and rain at 5:30 with close to three dozen players still on the course.

Harcourt is somewhat familiar with Trump National, having won the 36-hole 2018 Trump Invitational which included rounds on both the Old and New Courses.

“I feel comfortable around here. My strategy was to hit a lot of drivers and three woods and stay away from the bunkers, although I did get in two of them,” said Harcourt, a graduate of St. Peter’s Prep who earlier this summer reached the semifinals of the Philly Amateur while playing out of Mercer Oaks.

“I hit the ball really solid and was able to find the greens and put it pretty close all day. It helped that it was soft out there early from the rain last night,” he said. 

 This spring, the 22-year-old Harcourt was named Division 3 All-American, finishing 15th in the NCAA Division 3 Championship. He won the Centennial Conference Championship as a member of Gettysburg’s team.

“I haven’t been in his position (at the top of the leaderboard) in the Open, but I think having won the conference championship showed I can win under pressure,” said Harcourt, who has been working on some changes regarding a dip in his swing.

For his round, Harcourt birdied the par-3 sixth and 10th holes, and par-4 seventh and 12th holes and the par-5 15th.

“As the birdies kept coming, I tried to forget how low I was and to just focus on one shot at a time. I just want to play against the golf course, not anyone else,” said Harcourt, whose career highlight was playing the 2016 U.S. Amateur at Oakland Hills in Michigan. 

Muehr is one of golf’s feel-good stories. During his career on the PGA Tour from 2001 to 2003, he was diagnosed with melanoma in 2002 and recovered, later starting Golf Pros Beating Cancer, a charitable foundation.

After regaining his amateur status, he won the Crump Cup at Pine Valley twice, the Middle Atlantic Amateur twice and the prestigious Coleman Cup once. Muehr is also a two-time quarterfinalist at the U.S. Mid-Amateur and is playing in his first NJSGA Open since 1993.

“The last time I played in the State Open I was 20 years old and a junior at Duke and I think I placed in the top 10, but I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have,” said Muehr, who is staying locally in Bernardsville with an old high school friend.

“I never played the New Course before. I just hit some balls around last night. I love the golf course. It suits my eye pretty well. The greens were a little softened and they were gettable. I loved the setup.”

Muehr left New Jersey in the early 1990s, long before Trump National’s New Course opened in 2008. Before leaving New Jersey, Muehr won the MGA’s Met Amateur and Ike Championship, both in 1992.

His round included six birdies, at the par-3 second hole, the par-4 first, 12th and 16th holes, and the par-5 fourth and 15th holes. He bogeyed the par-4 fifth hole.

“To win the State Open would be fantastic. I was a little naïve as a kid. I was always a late bloomer,” he said. “It’s great to win anything, and you don’t get that chance very often. There’s still a long way to go.”

Harcourt and Muehr tee off on Tuesday afternoon. Admission is free to the Open and it is open to the public.

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