U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Round 1: Five Things to Know
August 24, 2018 | Eugene, Ore.
By David Shefter, USGA
The U.S. Senior Amateur returns to the Pacific Northwest – and specifically Oregon – for the first time in nearly 20 years when Eugene Country Club hosts the 64th rendition. The only player in the 156-player field this week who competed when Portland (Ore.) Golf Club hosted in 1999 is the seemingly ageless Marvin “Vinny” Giles, the now-75-year-old two-time USGA champion who advanced to the quarterfinals that year.
Giles, the 1972 U.S. Amateur and 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur champion, is the oldest player in the field. The four-time USA Walker Cup competitor, and 1993 captain, is making his 21st start in the championship.
Here are five other things to know going into Saturday’s Round 1 of stroke play:
Defending champion Sean Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., won last year’s championship at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minn., in his first year of eligibility, and his 43rd USGA championship. Now he hopes to become the first player to successfully defend since the late William C. Campbell in 1979 and 1980. Campbell, a former president of the USGA, also won the 1964 U.S. Amateur and was second in the inaugural U.S. Senior Open in 1980. Paul Simson, the man who Knapp defeated in last year’s final, is the last player to claim multiple Senior Amateur titles, doing so in 2010 and 2012.
New Kids on the Block
Every year, fresh faces become eligible for the USGA’s 55-and-over championship. Last year, Knapp won the title, and this year, two names to watch are Michael McCoy and Jeff Wilson. McCoy, 55, of Des Moines, Iowa, broke through and claimed his first USGA title five years ago in the U.S. Mid-Amateur at the Country Club of Birmingham in Alabama. He also represented the USA in the 2015 Walker Cup Match.
Wilson, 55, of Fairfield, Calif., still is looking for that elusive USGA title, but his name is all over the USGA Media Guide. This year, he joined Giles as the only players to have been low amateur in the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open; Wilson achieving the feat in 2000 (U.S. Open at Pebble Beach) and 2018 (U.S. Senior Open at The Broadmoor). Wilson has twice been the medalist or co-medalist in the U.S. Amateur (2000 and 2010) and he’s a three-time U.S. Mid-Amateur medalist.
Four players from the Beaver State qualified for this year’s championship, including 2013 U.S. Senior Amateur runner-up Pat O’Donnell, of Happy Valley. It’s been six years since a player won the Senior Amateur in his home state. Paul Simson, who grew up not far from Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J., took the 2012 title. This will be O’Donnell’s eighth U.S. Senior Amateur start. He’s a nine-time Oregon Golf Association Stroke Play champion and a five-time OGA Senior Amateur champion. The other three Oregonians in the field are Larry Watts, 59, of Springfield; Johnny Coppedge, 55, of Canby; and Scott Hval, 57, of Portland. For Hval, this will be his 11th USGA championship and first Senior Amateur. Coppedge is a former backup quarterback at both the University of Montana and the University of Oregon.
The U.S. Senior Amateur has the distinction for being the USGA amateur championship with the longest drought of having a medalist win the title. One must go back to 1987 when John Richardson, the father of two-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion Kemp Richardson, hoisted the trophy at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa.
While Giles might be the only player in the field to have competed in the last Senior Amateur in Oregon, several players in the field have previously competed in a USGA championship at Eugene Country Club. In the 1993 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, Randy Haag, 59, of Orinda, Calif., lost in the quarterfinals to eventual champion Jeff Thomas, 3 and 2. John Grace, 70, of Fort Worth, Texas, advanced to the Round of 16, while Stewart “Buddy” Alexander, 65, of Auburn, Ala., lost in the Round of 32. Knapp and Tim Jackson, 59, of Germantown, Tenn., were eliminated in the Round of 64. Hunter Nelson, 65, of Houston, Texas, missed the cut.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at email@example.com.