Dave Ryan's Double Eagle Spurs Comeback in Round of 16 September 20, 2016 | ST. LOUIS, MO. By Ron Driscoll, USGA

Dave Ryan recovers his ball after making a historic double eagle on the par-4 14th hole during his dramatic run to the quarterfinals. (USGA/Chris Keane) 

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Dave Ryan admitted he was lucky, but he also took full advantage of a historic shot on Tuesday afternoon to move on in the 62nd U.S. Senior Amateur Championship.

Ryan recorded just the third known ace on a par-4 hole in USGA championship history, holing out his 270-yard tee shot on the 14th hole at Old Warson Country Club to square his Round-of-16 match with Paul Simson, a match Ryan would go on to win in 20 holes.

“I was down, so I was trying to drive the green,” said Ryan, 62, who qualified for his first USGA championship, the 1986 U.S. Amateur, at Old Warson. “I was lucky it went in, to be honest with you. I hit a little trap draw with my driver. When you do something like that, it’s all luck.”

Ryan’s drive landed on the fairway just short of the green, bounced on and broke perfectly from right to left to catch the right edge of the hole and tumble in. It was the third ace of his career and first since 1981. The hole, which is protected by water on the left side, had played between 310 and 367 yards over the first three days of the championship before the tees were moved up to 270 yards on Tuesday.

“I birdied the hole in my [Tuesday morning] match and parred it the other three times,” said Ryan, of Taylorville, Ill., about 90 miles from St. Louis, who has competed in about 20 USGA championships, including five Senior Amateurs. His ace was the 13th known double eagle in USGA history, with Sammy Schmitz recording the most recent one, another hole-in-one on a par 4, on the 33rd hole of last year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur final, which he won over Marc Dull on the next hole at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Fla.

Ryan’s work was far from done. Two-time Senior Amateur champion Simson, of Raleigh, N.C., parred the 15th and 16th holes against Ryan’s bogeys to regain the advantage, but Ryan was determined not to let him get away. He birdied the 164-yard 17th hole, then parred the uphill, 450-yard, par-4 finishing hole to force extra holes. After a pair of pars on the 19th hole, No. 13 seed Simson three-putted the 20th hole and Ryan sealed the victory, his second of the day after a 2-and-1 win over Nolan Mills in the morning.

“I hit a good 7-iron on No. 17,” said Ryan, the No. 29 seed and a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University. “I had probably 15 feet and a right-to-left putt and I like those. On 18, I hit a great drive and a great 5-iron. Garth [Bayer, Old Warson’s head golf professional] told me it’s a club and a half longer. On the second hole, he unfortunately three-putted. He’s a great guy to play with and I was fortunate to beat him.”

Ryan’s previous best finish in this championship was the Round of 16, in 2010 at Lake Nona Club in Orlando, Fla., where Simson won the first of his two titles.

“You tee it up and you try to win every time,” said Ryan. “But this competition’s tough.”

A gritty comeback – with a little luck sprinkled in – can overcome a lot.

Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at rdriscoll@usga.org.

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