Kemp Richardson, 57, of Laguna Niguel, Calif., became the 13th player to win the USGA Senior Amateur Championship twice, with a victory in 19 holes over Frank Abbott, 60, of Napa, Calif., at The Virginian Golf Club.
“It’s kind of bittersweet because I really didn’t play well,” said Richardson, who also won in 2001. “I was fortunate enough to win. The game looked tired. It worked, but it didn’t work.”
Richardson, who was 2-down with three holes to play, did find his game enough to win holes 16 and 18 to square the championship match and send it to extra holes for the first time since 1989.
On the 16th, Abbott, a consulting company president, three-putted from nearly 40 feet and lost the hole with a bogey. Richardson, the longer hitter, then reached the 530-yard, par-5 18th with a driver and rescue club, the equivalent of a 3-iron, and two-putted for a winning birdie.
“I hit both those shots as good as I’m going to hit them,” said Richardson, whose father, John, won the championship in 1987. “I knew I’d better get a birdie. I couldn’t leave it to him to make a six.”
Richardson, a two-time low amateur at U.S. Senior Open and the 2001 British Senior Amateur champion, had not played past the 16th hole in winning his first five matches.
On the 19th hole, which was The Virginian’s par-3, 195-yard 15th, Richardson hit to within 30 feet of the hole. Abbott’s tee shot settled in the greenside rough.
“Everybody knows that I’m flat with my swing but if I drop my hands in, bad things can happen,” Abbott said. “That’s the first time I dropped them in all week.”
Abbott, who finished fourth at the 2003 California Senior Amateur, was in a difficult lie and pitched 45 feet past the hole. He could not convert his putt for par. Richardson then putted close enough for Abbott to concede the hole.
In a match in which both players missed short putts, Richardson said: “If I could have putted any good, I could have taken over. When I needed to two-putt, I couldn’t two-putt. I really putted the worst (Thursday) that I putted the whole time. I couldn’t get it in the hole.”
Abbott admitted that his miss on the 16th was critical. “In hindsight, if I make the putt on 16, the three-footer, it’s over,” he said. “I would have been 2-up with two to play. He wasn’t going to win 17 because I played 17 well all week.”
The finalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2004 Championship at Bel-
Air Country Club in Los Angeles, Calif., from October 9-14, as well as the 2004 U.S. Senior Open at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, from July 29-Aug. 1.
Richardson receives a gold medal and custody of the Frederick L. Dold Trophy for the ensuing year, an exemption from the next five Senior Amateurs, the next two Senior Opens, and the next U.S. Amateur, Mid-Amateur and Public Links, if eligible.
The USGA Senior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.