U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Medalist Lewis, Holtgrieve, Simson Survive Round of 64 September 28, 2015 | Egg Harbor Township, N.J. By Vanessa Zink, USGA

Two-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion Paul Simson eliminated 2013 champion Doug Hanzel in the Round of 64. (USGA/Chris Keane)

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Stroke-play medalist Randal Lewis survived a 20-hole battle with Lee Sandlin to advance to Tuesday’s Round of 32 in the 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at the par-71, 6,864-yard Hidden Creek Golf Club.

“I was getting tired at the end, thinking if this goes any more holes, I’m going to be worn out completely,” said Lewis, a 58-year-old financial advisor from Alma, Mich. “It was a good match.”

Lewis, the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and 1996 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up, found himself 2-up after birdieing Nos. 6 and 8, but Sandlin, 61, of Dallas, Texas,  didn’t allow his opponent to feel comfortable for long.

“I played really well on the front nine, not quite as well on the back, where I made a couple mistakes,” said Lewis, who noted that Sandlin surprised him with a recovery shot from the trees on No. 9 that landed 2 inches from the hole, giving him an easy tap-in birdie that cut Lewis’ lead to 1 up.

When Lewis bogeyed the par-4 10th and 13th holes, Sandlin had his only lead of the match. But he bogeyed No. 14 to send the match back to square.

According to Lewis, who chose to walk the course in an attempt to loosen a sore hip, he hit one of the greatest 5-irons of his life from 194 yards out to set up a 10-foot birdie on No. 17, which kept the match all square heading to the 18th hole.

“I knew that shot on 17 was big because he [Sandlin] was on the edge of the green in two, and I knew he was going to make birdie,” said Lewis, who made it to the semifinals in the 2014 U.S. Senior Amateur before losing, 2 and 1, to Bryan Norton. “Going to [hole] 18 1 down is not what you want, so that was a huge birdie to stay even in the match.”

Sandlin, who earned the No. 64 seed in a 12-for-1 playoff early Monday morning with a 12-foot birdie putt on the 440-yard, par-4 10th hole, the first playoff hole, missed his chance to clinch the match with a missed putt on the 19th hole, then flew the green on the 20th hole for a bogey, sealing the win for Lewis, who parred.

“I decelerated on a putt that would have won the 19th hole, and it horseshoed around the hole and came back at me,” said Sandlin. “You can’t give a champion another chance.”

Jim Holtgrieve defeated Buddy Marucci in a matchup of recent USA Walker Cup captains and USGA champions. (USGA/Chris Keane)

The Round of 64 draw featured two matchups of USGA champions: longtime friends and USA Walker Cup Team members and captains Jim Holtgrieve and Buddy Marucci, and U.S. Senior Amateur champions Doug Hanzel and Paul Simson.

Holtgrieve, 67, of St. Louis, Mo., and Marucci, 63, of Villanova, Pa., discovered their pairing while at dinner together on Monday night.

“Some friends of mine from St. Louis texted and said, ‘Guess who you’re playing,’” recounted Holtgrieve, who knew Marucci before he won the inaugural 1981 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. “We looked at each other and said, it can’t be. Through all the USGA events we’ve played together, we’ve never faced each other in a match.”

Holtgrieve upended the 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur champion, 4 and 3, Monday.

“I knew I really had to play well to beat Buddy, and I did,” said Holtgrieve. “It was great because I’ve been struggling and haven’t played much because I went to the Walker Cup and was in Europe [earlier this month], so I’ve been trying to find a couple of things, and I really played well. Buddy didn’t putt well today. He’s usually a really good putter, and he didn’t make any putts. So, I snuck by on that, for sure.”

Simson, the 2010 and 2012 U.S. Senior Amateur champion, defeated Hanzel, 58, of Savannah, Ga., the 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur champion, by a 5-and-4 margin.

“I don’t like playing my buddies, because we all know how difficult it is to win,” said Simson, 64, of Raleigh, N.C., who grew up in northern New Jersey and spent summers in nearby Stone Harbor. “I played pretty well and finally made a few putts. In something like this, I look for improvement every day, and as long as I’m improving, I think I’m pretty tough to beat.”

Defending champion Patrick Tallent, 62, of Vienna, Va., lost in 19 holes to Kevin Cahill, 55, of Waukesha, Wis. Tallent also won the 2015 Seniors Amateur Championship, conducted by The R&A.

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” said Tallent. “I had my run last year. Kevin is a really good player, really solid. He made a birdie on No. 16 to tie the match, and it was a dogfight.”

The No. 2 seed Doug Lacrosse, 63, of Tampa, Fla., also lost in 19 holes to Patrick Murphy, 57, of Provo, Utah.

Four of the seven Philadelphia-area players who qualified for match play remain in the hunt: Thomas Hyland, 59, of Marlton, N.J.; Chip Lutz, 60, of Reading, Pa.; Brian Rothaus, 59, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa.; and Raymond Thompson, 63, of Drexel Hill, Pa.

Both the second and third rounds of match play are scheduled for Tuesday, followed by the quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Wednesday. The championship, which is open to amateurs who have reached their 55th birthday by Sept. 26, 2015 and have a Handicap Index® not exceeding 7.4, will conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, starting at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

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