CASHIERS, N.C. – Doug Hanzel, 56, of Savannah, Ga., defeated Pat O’Donnell, 59, of Happy Valley, Ore., 3 and 2, on Thursday to win the 59th USGA Senior Amateur Championship at the par-72, 6,842-yard Wade Hampton Golf Club.
Earlier in the day, Hanzel defeated medalist Chip Lutz, 58, of Reading, Pa., 3 and 2, to secure his spot in the finals. O’Donnell defeated Buzz Fly, 58, of Memphis, Tenn., 2 and 1, in the other semifinal match.
The semifinals were pushed to Thursday morning due to Wednesday’s 4-hour, 15-minute weather delay and late-afternoon fog. It was the first time since 2002 that the semifinals and finals were contested on the same day.
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. The 156-player field went through 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, and a field of 64 contested six rounds of match play to determine a champion.
The championship matchup was not the finalists’ first encounter; they squared off last year in the Senior Amateur quarterfinals at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J., with Hanzel prevailing, 3 and 1.
“I’m dumbfounded,” said Hanzel, who claimed his first national championship in 20 USGA appearances. “Really, I couldn’t say I envisioned myself being a USGA champion. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
Hanzel, the low amateur at the last two U.S. Senior Opens, began the final match by winning Nos. 2 and 3, before O’Donnell took the fourth hole with a birdie 4. Hanzel regained his 2-up advantage by holing a 4-foot birdie on the seventh hole. He upped his advantage to 3 up with a par at the 10th.
Hanzel’s lone blip came at No. 12 when he three-putted for bogey.
For the round, Hanzel was one under par, with the usual match-play concessions.
If there was a defining moment in the match, it came at the par-4 15th, where Hanzel drove his ball into dense pine straw to the left of the fairway. He recovered by hitting a 5-iron shot under the tree limbs to within 10 feet of the flagstick. After O’Donnell missed a 3-foot par putt, Hanzel holed his 2-footer for par to go dormie-3.
“It was obviously a phenomenal shot,” said Hanzel. “I was guessing a little on the yardage because there were no sprinkler [heads] over there. It's a little uphill. I hit a 7‑iron from a few yards up further [in my semifinal match]. So I figured … I needed probably two more clubs.
“I hit, I would say, a three‑quarter shot, almost a full shot. I just hit it perfect.”
Hanzel followed his outstanding shot on No. 15 with a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole to close out the match.
“Give me a chance,” joked O’Donnell, who had knocked his approach to 10 feet. “C’mon, Doug. You’re killing me.”
O’Donnell, who played 2-under-par golf in his morning semifinal win, was pleased with his showing. It was his first USGA final in four Senior Amateur appearances.
“You dream about doing it, but you don’t think you can go that far,” said O’Donnell, a maintenance analyst for Boeing. “It was a lot of fun. It was quite a thrill. I felt comfortable out here.”
Hanzel, the only player in USGA history to make match play in the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and Senior Amateur in the same year (2012), drew upon his recent USGA championship experience, especially in his semifinal win over Lutz, who was vying to become the first medalist to win the Senior Amateur in 26 years.
“It definitely helped,” said Hanzel, the 2012 Georgia State Senior Amateur champion. “If you don't make any birdies, you don't win any holes.
“So I think the match play, particularly last year's Senior Amateur match play, I made it to the semis. I got pretty far. I kind of know how aggressive to be at times. So I think, yeah, the more you play match play the better you're going to be at it.”
As champion, Hanzel received a gold medal and custody of the Senior Amateur Championship Trophy for one year. He also receives a 10-year Senior Amateur exemption, a two-year exemption into the U.S. Amateur (2014 and 2015) and U.S. Mid-Amateur (2013 and 2014), and an exemption from local qualifying for next year’s U.S. Open.
Both finalists are exempt into the 2014 U.S. Senior Open at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla., though Hanzel had already secured a spot for being the low amateur in this year’s championship at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club.
O’Donnell received an exemption into next week’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, plus a three-year exemption to the Senior Amateur and an exemption into the 2014 U.S. Amateur.
“Your goal is to win the best tournaments,” said Hanzel. “For a senior, to me, this is the best tournament.”
Jeff Altstadter is a manager of media relations for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.
CASHIERS, N.C. – Results from Thursday’s semifinal matches and 18-hole championship match at the 2013 USGA Senior Amateur, being conducted at the 6,842-yard, par-72 Wade Hampton Golf Club.
Douglas Hanzel, Savannah, Ga. (149) def. Chip Lutz, Reading, Pa. (138), 3 and 2
Pat O’Donnell, Happy Valley, Ore. (152) def. Buzz Fly, Memphis, Tenn. (147), 2 and 1
Douglas Hanzel, Savannah, Ga. (149) def. Pat O’Donnell, Happy Valley, Ore. (152), 3 and 2