U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Round of 32: Five Things to Know
August 28, 2018 | Eugene, Ore.
By David Shefter, USGA
Most of the notable players, including all 10 USGA champions, managed to survive the first round of match play on Monday in the 64th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Eugene Country Club. That includes two-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion Paul Simson, 67, of Raleigh, N.C., whose match-play record is a remarkable 32-9.
“I hope it becomes 33-9,” said Simson. Actually, he’d like it to reach 34-9 by day’s end as a pair of match-play rounds are scheduled for Tuesday. By the end of the day, the field will have been whittled from 32 to eight. It’s an important day for some competitors as quarterfinalists are exempt into next year’s U.S. Senior Amateur at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C.
With that in mind, here are five things to know going into the Round of 32:
Competitors in USGA Senior Amateur competitions are given the option to walk or use motorized transportation. Sean Knapp, 56, of Oakmont, Pa., has always been one to walk and carry his own bag, whether it’s at USGA championships – where walking is a requirement – or playing on the weekends. He walked all six match-play rounds last year en route to winning the U.S. Senior Amateur in his first year of eligibility.
But on Tuesday, with temperatures expected to climb into the low 90s, Knapp said he might break from tradition, especially if he has to play a second match in the afternoon.
“Here’s the thing about walking: if everyone else isn’t walking, you can actually be at a disadvantage,” said Knapp, a veteran of 40-plus USGA championships. “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.”
Knapp faces Jeff Burda, of Modesto, Calif., at 8 a.m. PDT.
John Grace, 70, of Fort Worth, Texas, is not only the oldest remaining competitor, but is the only one to have played three different USGA championships at Eugene Country Club. In 1964 at the age of 16, Grace qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur, the first of his now 45 USGA events, and reached the Round of 16 before losing to future U.S. Open champion Hubert Green, 4 and 3. He returned 29 years later for the U.S. Mid-Amateur, losing again in the Round of 16 to eventual runner-up Joey Ferrari.
“I remember ’64 more than ’93,” said Grace. “But that was my first USGA event. I was 16. Hubert was 17. That’s why we he beat me.
“I really wanted to qualify this year because [Eugene C.C.] was my first, and I’m 70. You don’t know how many more you have left.”
Grace, who played at the University of Houston with future U.S. Senior Open champion Bruce Lietzke, 1981 U.S. Open runner-up Bill Rogers and 1975 U.S. Open runner-up John Mehaffey, is a two-time USGA runner-up himself, losing the 1974 U.S. Amateur final to Jerry Pate and the 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur final to Marvin “Vinny” Giles III. When Grace turned 50, he turned professional and played on the European Senior Tour before regaining his amateur status 12 years ago.
Grace faces Jerry Rose, of Sarasota, Fla., at 7:24 a.m.
Two of the youngest match-play survivors and recent U.S. Senior Open low-amateur performers Mike McCoy, 55, of Des Moines, Iowa, and Robert Funk, 55, of Canyon Lake, Calif., will square off at 7:12 a.m. McCoy has been playing in USGA championships since his undergraduate days at Wichita State University. At 50, he became the second-oldest champion of the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2013, which helped earn him a spot on the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team. Funk has long been a standout player in Southern California, winning the 2006 and 2013 SCGA Mid-Amateur.
Another matchup of decorated players will take place at 8:24 a.m. when 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Doug Hanzel, 61, of Savannah, Ga., faces 1986 U.S. Amateur champion Stewart “Buddy” Alexander, 65, of Auburn, Ala. Alexander, who has competed in more than 40 USGA championships, is no stranger to national championships, having coached the University of Florida to NCAA titles in 1993 and 2001. Along with son Tyson and his father, Skip, the Alexanders are one of three families with three generations of U.S. Open qualifiers (Herrons and Loves). This is Hanzel’s 33rd USGA championship. Six years ago, the now-retired pulmonologist not only was the low amateur in the U.S. Senior Open, but he also made USGA history by qualifying for match play in the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Senior Amateur.
Straight (Up and) Down
In 1987, Mike Rowley, a former water polo player at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo who dabbled in golf, decided to create a clothing company after successfully selling T-shirts when he hosted the Junior Olympics in San Luis Obispo. Rowley sold thousands of shirts, leading to an idea for a startup clothing company.
He also came from a golf family – his grandfather, Fay Coleman, won a pair of Southern California Golf Association Amateur titles, in 1928 and 1930 – so he founded Straight Down, which he describes as a “lifestyle brand” that serves the green-grass market in North America. Since founding the company 31 years ago, Rowley’s own golf game has taken off and last year he won the SCGA Senior Four-Ball with partner Mark Gardner. This week, he is competing in his second U.S. Senior Amateur – and seventh USGA championship – and on Monday, the 56-year-old defeated Jay Sessa to set up a Round-of-32 match at 9 a.m. against Iowan Gene Elliott.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.