U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
For Third Time in Four Years, Zahringer, Szewczul Cross Paths
September 28, 2015 | Egg Harbor Township, N.J.
By Tom Mackin
When George Zahringer and David Szewczul found out that they were playing each other in the first round of match play at the 61st U.S. Senior Amateur on Monday, their response was identical – they laughed.
“I thought back to the whipping he administered to me during the 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur,” said Zahringer, 62, of New York, N.Y. “As lawyers are prone to say, ‘My recollection was refreshed.’”
“We had faced each other two of the last three years in this championship, so I was looking forward to it,” said Szewczul, 61, of Farmington, Conn.
Two of the most highly decorated amateur golfers in their adjoining states, they are getting accustomed to these clashes. “I lost to George, 1 down, in 2012 during the first round of match play (at Mountain Ridge Country Club, in West Caldwell, N.J.)],” said Szewczul. “Then I defeated him, 2 and 1, in 2013 (at Wade Hampton Golf Club in Cashiers, N.C.) in the [Round of 16].”
Zahringer, who was a member of the 2003 USA Walker Cup Team, won the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur, was twice a quarterfinalist in the U.S. Amateur (1992 and 2003), and finished as the runner-up to Buddy Marucci in the 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur. He also won the 2013 Seniors Amateur Championship at Royal Aberdeen in Scotland and has captured numerous Metropolitan Golf Association championships.
Szewczul is the only player in Connecticut golf history to win the State Amateur, State Mid-Amateur, and State Public Links (four times), and in 2010 he was elected to the state’s Golf Hall of Fame.
Szewczul took an early lead in their latest match before Zahringer won the eighth and ninth holes to go 1 up at the turn. He extended that lead to 3 up with four holes to play before bogeys at the 15th and 16th holes allowed Szewczul to cut the lead to one hole. Zahringer then birdied the par-5 17th to close out the match.
“I told Dave afterward that this match could have gone either way,” said Zahringer. “I just probably played a little steadier than he did.”
“Obviously George has a great record so you know you have to make very few mistakes against him,” said Szewczul. “He’s a proven champion. But I feel I have my own game and if I’m on, I can give him all he can handle, like I did today.”
Despite playing someone he knew fairly well, Zahringer didn’t stray from his usual approach. “You don’t comport yourself any differently,” he said. “There’s not a lot of chit chat out there, but you acknowledge good shots.”
Szewczul echoed that sentiment. “It’s a mutual respect, not that you don’t want to talk to each other. He’s grinding out there and so am I, so you talk a bit at the right times.”
The mutual admiration is reflective of the atmosphere this week at the U.S. Senior Amateur.
“One of the nice things at this championship is you see guys who you haven’t seen in a while,” says Zahringer. “You can renew friendships. Everybody wants to win, but this is not going to launch our professional careers. It’s a little more laid-back. But you do have guys here who have won national championships and played on Walker Cup teams. They’re not coming here to just play the golf course. They’re here to win.”
If recent history is any indication, odds are the friendly rivals will square off again sometime soon.
“I’d love to see George again,” said Szewczul. “He’s 1 up on me now. I look forward to the challenge. I’m sure if we both stay healthy and our games are good, our paths will cross.”
New Jersey native Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.