U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Four USGA Champions Advance to Senior Amateur Quarterfinals August 26, 2018 | Eugene, Ore. By David Shefter, USGA

Defending champ Sean Knapp survived a pair of 19-hole matches on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals at Eugene Country Club. (USGA/J.D. Cuban)

64th U.S. Senior Amateur | #USSeniorAm
Eugene (Ore.) Country Club
Rounds of 32 and 16, Match Play | Par 72, 6,655 yards (Round of 32); 6,617 yards (Round of 16)
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Championship History | Media Center

What Happened

Co-medalist Jeff Wilson will be joined in the quarterfinals of the 64th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship by four USGA champions after winning a pair of matches on Tuesday at Eugene Country Club.

Wilson, 55, of Fairfield, Calif., vying to become the first medalist in 31 years to claim the title, posted Round-of-32 and Round-of-16 victories over Buddy Path (5 and 4) and Scott Sullivan (2 and 1), respectively, to reach the final eight.

Also registering two victories on Tuesday were three U.S. Senior Amateur champions: Doug Hanzel, 61, of Savannah, Ga.; Chip Lutz, 63, of Reading, Pa.; and Sean Knapp, 56, of Oakmont, Pa. 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Michael McCoy, 55, of Des Moines, Iowa, also advanced to the quarterfinals in his Senior Amateur debut.

They are joined in the final eight by Jerry Rose, 59, of Sarasota, Fla.; Ned Zachar, 56, of Bedford, N.Y.; and Craig Davis, 56, of Chula Vista, Calif.

Wilson held a precarious 1-up lead on Scott Sullivan going to the par-4 17th hole when Wilson’s tee shot landed in a tree but didn’t come down. During the five-minute search, a gust of wind came up and knocked the ball to the ground. The Northern Californian car dealer then hit his 56-degree wedge to 10 feet for a winning birdie.

“It was one of those days where I hung in there and didn’t have a whole lot,” said Wilson, who is one of two players to be the low amateur in the U.S. Open (2000) and U.S. Senior Open (2018). “It’s not fun when it’s happening. I was fortunate today to get by.”

Knapp, looking to become the first player to win consecutive U.S. Senior Amateur titles since William C. Campbell in 1979-1980, also navigated several close encounters in winning a pair of 19-hole matches. In his morning Round-of-32 match, Jeff Burda, of Modesto, Calif., rallied to square the match with a birdie on the par-4 17th hole before Knapp hit a fairway-bunker approach to 3 feet to set up a winning birdie after Burda’s long birdie attempt lipped out.

In the Round of 16, 1979 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Jack Larkin, of Atlanta, Ga., missed a 5-foot par putt on the 18th green that would have won the match. And once again Knapp birdied the first extra hole, converting a 24-footer from the fringe.

I do not like [extra holes], but if the outcome is this way, it’s something you have to accept,” said Knapp. “I think I played the [par-4 first] hole so many times today (4) I knew the read. Every one of the guys I have played against [in match play] have played spectacularly. This was the best match by far. Jack played great. I just knew coming down the stretch, that it’s tough to bring it home.”

McCoy and Hanzel, meanwhile, had “relatively” easy Round-of-16 victories, with the former defeating Buzz Fly, of Memphis, Tenn., 5 and 4, and Hanzel, the 2013 champion, defeating 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur semifinalist Frank Vana Jr., of Boxford, Mass., 4 and 3, after dispatching 1986 U.S. Amateur champion Stewart “Buddy” Alexander, of Auburn, Ala., 7 and 6, in the Round of 32.

Zachar was 3 down after 11 holes against Gene Elliott, of West Des Moines, Iowa, before making birdies on Nos. 12, 13 and 14, and another on 17 to produce a 1-up victory. Davis knocked out two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Tim Jackson, of Memphis, Tenn., 2 and 1, while Lutz defeated 2016 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Dave Ryan, of Taylorville, Ill., 4 and 2.

Earlier on Tuesday, co-medalist and No. 1 seed Gregory Condon, 56, of Monte Vista, Colo., literally ran into a Buzz-saw, succumbing to Fly, 2 and 1.

The first of the four quarterfinal matches will begin at 7:15 a.m. PDT on Wednesday. The two semifinal matches are scheduled for Friday afternoon, starting at 1 p.m., with the 18-hole championship match starting Thursday morning at 7:30.

Notable

  • All eight quarterfinalists are exempt into the 2019 U.S. Senior Amateur at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C.

  • Ned Zachar, of Bedford, N.Y., holed a 35-foot par putt on 18 to force extra holes against 2008 Senior Amateur champion George “Buddy” Marucci and then won his Round-of-32 match on the 19th hole with another par.

  • Doug Hanzel, of Savannah, Ga., won seven consecutive holes from No. 6 in closing out Stewart “Buddy” Alexander in the Round of 32.

  • Jack Larkin, of Atlanta, Ga., made an eagle-2 in his 19-hole loss to Sean Knapp. Larkin holed out from 149 yards with a 9-iron to win the par-4 14th hole.

  • Paul Simson’s 20-hole loss in the Round of 16 to Jerry Rose, of Sarasota, Fla., saw the two-time champion’s overall match-play record in the U.S. Senior Amateur fall to 33-10.

 

Quotable

2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and 2015 USA Walker Cup competitor Michael McCoy, of Des Moines, Iowa, on joining the 55-and-over senior amateur circuit this year:

“It keeps you getting out of bed and going to the gym and hitting balls after work to keep your game sharp. It is a nice thing to be able to keep competing. Even though they’re all a little older, they are all good friends. We’ll all go into the players’ lounge and have a glass of wine together tonight. So it’s pretty cool. You don’t do that at the U.S. Am.”

Jerry Rose, of Sarasota, Fla., on knocking out two-time champion Paul Simson to reach the quarterfinals:

“I have been playing well, hitting the ball well this week. This is such a fickle game. You hope you can catch lightning in a bottle at the right time.”

Ned Zachar, of Bedford, N.Y., on his mindset going to the 12th tee 3 down against Gene Elliott:

“I never felt like I was out of it. I was hitting the ball well. And my caddie (Jason Cosentino) said, ‘Listen we’ve got to get something going.’ But I said we need to let something come to us rather than try to force something to happen. I’ve seen it when I’ve gotten up on other people … and they start pressing. They start making mistakes and all of a sudden they are 4 down and it’s over. I tried not to do that and at the end of the day, it worked.”

Zachar on having his caddie from his home club, Glen Arbor in Bedford Hills, N.Y., with him this week:

“He’s been my good-luck charm. I did well in the MGA (Metropolitan Golf Association) Senior Am (T-3), I qualified for the U.S. Senior Open for The Broadmoor with Jason on the bag. So after that, he was not going to leave.”

Chip Lutz, of Reading, Pa., on reaching the quarterfinals:

“This year has really been a different kind of year for me. I didn’t really have high expectations because I haven’t played in much competition. So, it’s a real thrill to be back in the mix.”

Sean Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., on the strength of the eight quarterfinalists:

“It’s all star. At the Players' Dinner, I said three things, and one was a guarantee that whomever wins this championship, it won’t be easy. It’s not easy. You are playing people with great resumés. And I am just lucky to be where I am.”

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.

 

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