Giles Captures 2009 USGA Senior Amateur Championship September 16, 2009 By Ken Klavon

Marvin "Vinny" Giles claimed the 2009 USGA Senior Amateur title at Beverly Country Club in Chicago 37 years after winning the U.S. Amateur, making it the longest time between triumphs in USGA history. (Steven Gibbons/USGA)
Giles establishes record for most years between USGA titles 

Marvin Vinny Giles III converted an 18-foot downhill putt on the 18th hole at Beverly Country Club to outlast John Grace, 61, of Fort Worth, Texas, 1 up, for the 55th USGA Senior Amateur title. When the ball disappeared into the hole, the 66-year-old Giles, of Richmond, Va., threw a thundering fist pump and ran halfway around the green before knocking twice on the face of his putter.

With the victory, Giles established a record for most years between USGA championship titles, having last won the 1972 U.S. Amateur. His 37 years between championship wins eclipsed the mark held by Bruce Fleisher, who had gone 33 years between his U.S. Amateur (1968) and U.S. Senior Open (2001) victories.

In addition, Giles joined William C. Campbell as the only players to have won a U.S. Amateur and USGA Senior Amateur title.

I was more excited there than I have ever been, said Giles. I’m done. I’ve done everything in golf I’ve wanted to.

As a precursor to the final, he eliminated five players in their mid-50s: 56-year-old Bob Harrington of Portland, Ore.; 57-year-old Tom Studer of Joliet, Ill.; Paul Simson, 56, of Raleigh, N.C.; Tom Doughtie, 56, of Amarillo, Texas; and John Pallin, 56, of Kenosha, Wis.

Giles entered match play on the George O’Neil-designed layout after shooting 3-over 145 in stroke-play qualifying. He finished five strokes behind co-medalists Simson and Pat Tallent, 56, of Vienna, Va.

The club, redesigned by Donald Ross in 1918 and hosting its second USGA championship, was set up as a par 71 at 6,672 yards. The field played the saucer-shaped greens conservatively. In a bit of irony, Giles would eschew such a strategy on the 18th hole of the final.

In the final, the former player agent’s saving grace was his length off the tee. He consistently boomed it ahead of the shorter Grace.

If I’m in the greenside bunker and he [needs] 140 yards [to] every hole, I promise you I’m not gonna lose, said Giles.

On the 18th hole, the third-longest par 5 on the course, Giles sent his second shot into the left rough, needing 56 yards to the hole. With the flagstick positioned in the front-center of the green, Grace landed his ball 18 feet left of it. Giles’ chip ran 18 feet past, above the hole. To the naked eye, Giles had the more difficult of the two shots that lay ahead. But Giles said he purposely chipped to the spot.

I looked at it twice, said Giles of the putt. First time I said, ‘It’s two balls there on the left.’ I looked again, and, I said, ‘No, you got to hit it, I think it’s three.’  I hit it solidly, and it was just trickling down the hill.

When it got within 2 feet, he began celebrating.

It was the kind of putt, a very difficult putt, because it was straight downhill, and if you hit it the least bit too hard it’s gonna go 4, 5 feet past, said Giles.

Said Grace, once again a runner-up in a USGA championship (1974 U.S. Amateur):  I really thought it would go extra holes, but I’m not surprised. He’s been making those all his life.