U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Defending Champ Knapp Among Monday Senior Amateur Winners
August 26, 2018 | Eugene, Ore.
By David Shefter, USGA
Defending champion Sean Knapp and co-medalists Gregory Condon and Jeff Wilson were among the 32 players to post Round-of-64 victories on Monday in the 64th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Eugene Country Club.
Knapp, 56, of Oakmont, Pa., built as much as a 4-up lead before holding on to defeat 2015 runner-up Tom Brandes, 62, of Bellevue, Wash., 2 and 1. Knapp is now 7-0 in match play in the Senior Amateur after taking last year’s title at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis in his first year of eligibility.
“When you play the better players in the country – and Tom is one of them – you just know they are just not going to give it to you,” said Knapp, who recorded six birdies. “I probably don’t win that match unless I win last year. What I mean by that is I don’t know him or much about him. All I know is his reputation. And when a guy plays really, really well – and he was playing well – it would have been easy for me to say, ‘What’s going on here?’ and be a little confused. Instead, I didn’t have any of that.”
Condon, 56, of Monte Vista, Colo., lost the opening hole to No. 64 seed Kirk Wright, a 57-year-old retired firefighter from Oklahoma City, Okla., but claimed Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 9 to take a 3-up lead into the second nine. The two competitors halved the next five holes before Condon’s conceded birdie on the 15th hole ended the match.
Wilson, 55, of Fairfield, Calif., the only player in USGA history to be medalist in the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Senior Amateur, had a back-and-forth affair with Richard Jeffers, 63, of Mobile, Ala., until Wilson, 2018 U.S. Senior Open low amateur, took control by winning holes 11, 12, 14 and 16 to register a 3-and-2 victory.
“I think I just made up my mind to start playing and quit worrying about what was going on, because I really didn’t play very well the first 10 or 11 holes,” said Wilson. “I was fortunate to be [all square] after 11.”
The match of the day saw 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur champion George “Buddy” Marucci, 66, of Villanova, Pa., outlast 2018 British Senior Amateur runner-up Randy Haag, 59, of Orinda, Calif., in 21 holes. Haag’s approach on the par-4 third hole was pulled left, leaving him a virtually impossible up-and-down. Marucci lagged his birdie putt to within 2 feet, and the par putt was conceded when Haag failed to convert his 30-foot par attempt.
“It’s been a while. Normally, I get beaten before that,” said Marucci, the 1995 U.S. Amateur runner-up, on playing 21 holes. “We didn’t play our best. Randy is a lot better player than he showed today. I’m a little over the hill, but he was kind of nice to me. Every once in a while, you get a break.”
The championship continues with two more rounds of match play on Tuesday. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are scheduled for Wednesday, with the 18-hole final on Thursday morning.
- In addition to Knapp, nine other USGA champions advanced to the Round of 32. That list includes Michael McCoy (2013 Mid-Amateur), Doug Hanzel (2013 Senior Amateur), Paul Simson (2010 and 2012 Senior Amateur), Jack Larkin (1979 Junior Amateur), George “Buddy” Marucci (2008 Senior Amateur), Stewart “Buddy” Alexander (1986 Amateur), Dave Ryan (2016 Senior Amateur), Tim Jackson (1994 and 2001 Mid-Amateur) and Chip Lutz (2015 Senior Amateur).
- Simson is now a perfect 12-0 in Round-of-64 matches in his 12 U.S. Senior Amateur appearances. His overall match-play mark in the championship is now an impressive 32-9.
- In a rematch of a 2013 semifinal match, Buzz Fly, of Memphis, Tenn., eliminated the lone Oregon resident to qualify for match play, Pat O’Donnell, of Happy Valley, 3 and 1. O’Donnell beat Fly five years ago at Wade Hampton Golf Club before losing in the championship match to Doug Hanzel.
- John Grace, 70, of Fort Worth, Texas, the oldest player to advance to match play, moved into the Round of 32 with a 2-and-1 victory over Bob Royak. The youngest player to make match play, 55-year-old Louis Brown, of Marietta, Ga., lost to Scott Sullivan, of Grand Junction, Colo., 1 down.
- Six of the 32 matches went to extra holes, while five others went the regulation 18.
Co-medalist Gregory Condon, of Monte Vista, Colo., on his 4-and-3 victory over No. 64 seed Kirk Wright in the Round of 64:
“Today, I was a little off. I didn’t play very well. I would mess up and he would mess up. That’s just kind of how it went. I hit a couple good shots when I needed to. Sometimes, match play goes that way.”
Defending champion Sean Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., on whether he’ll continue to walk and carry his own bag during a potential 36-hole day on Tuesday:
“Here’s the thing about walking: if everyone else isn’t walking, you can actually be at a disadvantage. If you get behind, you can have groups behind you that are waiting. And there’s just a certain pace where all of a sudden, the game starts to change. You’re rushing to play rather than playing at your normal pace. I feel it’s an advantage [to ride] in the heat. Last year, it wasn’t such an advantage because the temperatures were down. If it were 70 tomorrow, maybe [I’ll walk].”
Two-time champion Paul Simson, of Raleigh, N.C., on why he’s so successful in match play at the Senior Amateur:
“Maybe because I am a pretty good ball-striker and if you are just playing the golf course, sometimes people get to looking at what you’re doing rather than what they are doing. That’s the first way to start causing problems for yourself if you start watching the other guy. And good course management because I have my son [Phillip] on the bag and he is advising me.”
Simson on his 5-and-3 victory over Mitch Wilson, of Kalamazoo, Mich.:
“I just played a really solid match today and Mitch had a couple of wayward tee shots that caused a few bogeys that allowed me to get a couple up. I continued to make good shots and it’s tough when you are making pars and birdies to get back into it on a course like this.”
John Grace, of Fort Worth, Texas, on winning a match at the age of 70:
“I’m having fun. I don’t feel 70. I really hit it well. I kept it in play all day and made very few mistakes.”
Buddy Marucci, of Villanova, Pa., on playing in the cool and dry climate of Oregon versus the heat and humidity of the East Coast:
“Well, I actually like it hot. I did put the shorts on today. I was in long pants the [first two days] because I like to be warm. But the last few days have been absolutely brilliant. How do you beat this? Why wouldn’t you want to live in Eugene with weather like this?”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.