George “Buddy” Marucci, 56, of Villanova, Pa., defeated George Zahringer, 55, of New York, N.Y., 2 up, Thursday to win the 2008 USGA Senior Amateur Championship that was contested at the 6,679-yard, par-71 Shady Oaks Country Club course.
“Of all my accomplishments in golf, this has to top the list,” said Marucci. “I can’t wait to walk into the USGA Museum and see my name up on the Hall of Champions. It means a lot to finally win one of these after all of my years of trying.”
Marucci, who never trailed in the match, didn’t relinquish the lead after birdieing the par-3 seventh hole to go 1 up. He extended the margin to 3 up through 12 holes, his largest cushion, until Zahringer sliced the deficit to 1 down through No. 15.
Marucci then maintained his 1-up advantage with a clutch 8-foot par putt on No. 16.
After the two players halved the 17th hole, Marucci split the 18th fairway and struck a crisp 7-iron approach shot from 158 yards out that stopped within 11 feet of the hole. When Zahringer’s 25-foot birdie putt slid by the hole, he conceded to Marucci.
“I think Buddy’s iron play was better than mine today, as was his putting,” said Zahringer, the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. “That may have been the difference.”
Marucci, the captain of the victorious 2007 USA Walker Cup team, will be unable to defend his title next year at The Beverly Club in Chicago, Ill. He will instead be at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., as the returning captain of the 2009 USA Walker Cup squad. The two USGA championships begin play on the same weekend.
With his victory, Marucci became the first Walker Cup captain to win a USGA championship since Jay Sigel accomplished the feat in 1985. Sigel won the 1985 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship while he was that year’s Walker Cup captain.
It was Marucci’s second attempt at winning a USGA championship, following his appearance 13 years ago at the 1995 U.S. Amateur. He lost to Tiger Woods, 2 down, at Newport Country Club in Newport, R.I.
The USGA Senior Amateur is one of 13 championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association each year, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.