U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Round of 64: Five Matches to Watch
August 27, 2018 | Eugene, Ore.
By David Shefter, USGA
With two rounds of stroke play officially in the books and the field of the 64th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Eugene Country Club trimmed from 156 to 64, the time has come for head-to-head match play. What sounds like a sprint is more like a challenging marathon, as six matches over four days will eventually produce the next champion among the 55-and-older demographic.
While qualifying scores determine the seeding and placement in the bracket, every stroke-play survivor starts at Ground Zero. Each round is a new competition, a game of win and advance.
Among Monday’s 32 matches, here are five on which to keep a close eye (all times PDT):
Pat O’Donnell vs. Buzz Fly, 8:02 a.m.
A buzz will be in the air early, but not due to a competitor’s unique name. O’Donnell, 64, of Happy Valley, Ore., is the lone Oregon resident left in the draw, which should attract some interest from locals and Eugene Country Club members. O’Donnell also beat Fly, 2 and 1, in the 2013 semifinals before losing in the 18-hole final. Due to weather that year, the semifinals and final were held on the same day at Wade Hampton Golf Club. O’Donnell, who recently retired after 31 years at Boeing, is also one of the more decorated players in the Pacific Northwest, having won the Oregon Golf Association Senior Stroke Play nine times and the OGA Senior Amateur five times. Fly, 63, of Memphis, Tenn., has won three Memphis City Amateurs, six Memphis Senior Amateur titles and the 2014 Tennessee State Senior Amateur.
Tom Brandes vs. Sean Knapp, 9:50 a.m.
A year ago, Knapp, 56, of Oakmont, Pa., had to defeat a past USA Walker Cup competitor and three past U.S. Senior Amateur champions en route to the title at The Minikahda Club. So why would the defense of his title be any easier? His Round-of-64 match will be against 62-year-old Eugene native Tom Brandes, the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur runner-up. Brandes, of Bellevue, Wash., was inducted into the Pacific Northwest Golf Association Hall of Fame in 2015. Knapp got into the draw via a 14-for-13 playoff on Sunday, making a birdie on the par-4 10th hole.
Doug Hanzel vs. Jim McNelis, 10:50 a.m.
Hanzel, 61, of Savannah, Ga., is seeking a second U.S. Senior Amateur title after winning in 2013. A year earlier, he became the first player in USGA history to qualify for match play in the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Amateur. He also earned low-amateur honors in the 2012 U.S. Senior Open. The retired pulmonologist also is a Type 1 diabetic who competes with an insulin pump. McNelis, of Gig Harbor, Wash., will be looking to celebrate his 63rd birthday with a victory. The commercial airline pilot was the runner-up in this year’s Pacific Northwest Golf Association Senior Amateur, a year after winning the Washington State Golf Association Senior Amateur.
Gene Elliott vs. Brian Tennyson, 11:50 a.m.
Elliott, 56, of West Des Moines, Iowa, is one of the country’s more decorated players without a USGA title to his name. He has competed in nearly 30 USGA championships and was the medalist in the 1999 U.S. Amateur as well as a quarterfinalist in the 2006 U.S. Mid-Amateur. Last year, he claimed the Canadian Senior Amateur and Trans-Mississippi Senior titles. He is a past champion of the prestigious Porter Cup (1998) and won this year’s Jones Cup Senior in St. Simons Island, Ga. Tennyson, 56, of Fernandina Beach, Fla., was a semifinalist in the 1984 U.S. Amateur before embarking on a professional career, which included wins in the 1987 Philippine Open and India Open. The former Ball State University All-American played on the PGA Tour from 1988-1992, posting runner-up finishes in the 1989 Hardee’s Golf Classic and 1990 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. He regained his amateur status a decade ago.
Randy Haag vs. George “Buddy” Marucci, 12:14 p.m.
Both of these players have enjoyed tremendous success on the regional and national level. Marucci, 66, of Villanova, Pa., was the runner-up to Tiger Woods in the 1995 U.S. Amateur at Newport (R.I.) Country Club before winning the 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur. He also represented the USA on two Walker Cup Teams (1995 and 1997) and captained the USA side to victories in 2007 and 2009, the latter at his home club (Merion). Haag, 59, of Orinda, Calif., does not boast a USGA title, but he was the runner-up in the British Seniors Amateur earlier this month. He also advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1993 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Eugene Country Club. He was the low amateur in the 2010 and 2011 British Senior Open at Carnoustie and Walton Heath, respectively, and he’s been the Northern California Golf Association’s Player of the Year a record six times.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.