West Caldwell, N.J. – Gerardo Ramirez, 56, of San Antonio, defeated stroke-play medalist Jim Holtgrieve, 64, of St. Louis, by rallying from three holes down for a 2-and-1 victory in the second round of match play Tuesday morning at the 2012 USGA Senior Amateur Championship at the par-71, 6,838-yard Mountain Ridge Country Club. Third-round matches began at 1 p.m. before play was suspended 24 minutes later due to rain.
Holtgrieve, who posted the second-best stroke-play total in championship history with a 36-hole score of 136, became the latest of the top seeds to be eliminated. The No. 2 and No. 5 seeds lost in Monday’s first round.
The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be played Wednesday, and the championship is scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, starting at 9 a.m. EDT.
The USGA Senior Amateur, for players 55 and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Ramirez, who is playing in his first Senior Amateur, won three consecutive holes – the 13th, 14th and 15th – to move from 2 down to 1 up. He wrapped up the upset with a conceded birdie on the par-5 17th when Holtgrieve could not get up and down for par from a right greenside bunker.
“My driver was spot on and I hit a lot of fairways,” Ramirez said. “You miss the fairway, it’s hard to make a par because the greens are so severe.”
Holtgrieve, a two-time USA Walker Cup captain, ran into trouble after making birdie on the par-4 10th for a 3-up lead. He bogeyed No. 11 and carded a double bogey on the par-4 13th after driving into the hazard. Holtgrieve’s three-putt at the par-3 14th squared the match.
“That was a big mistake [at No. 11],” said Holtgrieve, the 1981 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. “I had 92 yards [to the hole] and hit it right. I didn’t do my education enough and study the golf course. It’s going to roll, catching the hill, and goes down to the [collection] area. I tried to putt it up and it came back to me. If I hit that sand wedge left of the hole, it would have been all different.”
Defending USGA Senior Amateur champion Louis Lee, 56, of Heber Springs, Ark., and 2010 Senior Amateur winner Paul Simson, 61, of Raleigh, N.C., enjoyed easy second-round wins. Simson, who made seven birdies, was a 6-and-5 winner over Kevin Carey, while Lee posted a 6-and-4 triumph over Mountain Ridge club champion Jay Blumenfeld, 60, of Parsippany, N.J.
Simson trailed early, but won three consecutive holes to take the lead. He increased his advantage to 3 up with a birdie at the par-5 9th. Simson drove the green on the 282-yard 12th to set up another birdie, then holed a 57-foot birdie putt on the next hole to close out the match.
“The easiest way to make reservations is to start preparing that acceptance speech,” said Simson, a quarterfinalist at last year’s championship. “I just got to hit one shot at a time and see what happens.”
Steve Golliher, the highest remaining seed at No. 3, defeated John Ervasti, 3 and 1. Golliher, 57, of Knoxville, Tenn., won four of five holes during the middle of the round with two birdies and two pars.
Three players who advanced to match play by surviving Monday's playoff posted second-round wins. After dispatching No. 2 seed Stan Kinsey in the first round, Pat O’Donnell, 58, of Happy Valley, Ore., won in 22 holes over Owen Joyner. Jim Knoll, 60, of Sunnyvale, Calif., used a par to win his second consecutive match on the 18th hole, over Sam Till Jr. The youngest player in the field, 55-year-old Joe Russo, of Sewell, N.J., recorded a 6-and-5 win over Leif Carlson.
Brian DePasquale is a manager of championship communications for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.