U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Round 2: Five Things to Know August 26, 2018 | Eugene, Ore. By David Shefter, USGA

Late arrival Randy Haag relied on past experiences at Eugene C.C. to shoot an even-par 72 in the first round on Saturday. (USGA/Chris Keane)  

U.S. Senior Amateur Home

The U.S. Senior Amateur Championship’s mantra is it’s the toughest test in senior golf. That certainly was the case on Saturday at Eugene Country Club, where the field average for the first round of stroke play registered at 77.2.

Just nine players bettered par (72) and 38 competitors failed to break 80.

What will Round 2 produce from the field? Here are five things to know:

Medalist Chase

Greg Condon, a 56-year-old Coloradan who is competing in his second U.S. Senior Amateur, currently has the inside track for the top seed in match play after a first-round 67. But there are plenty of pursuers within a few strokes, including 2018 U.S. Senior Open low amateur Jeff Wilson and 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur semifinalist Frank Vana Jr. Wilson is looking to become medalist in his third different USGA amateur competition – he has previously medaled in the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur.

But keep this in mind: the medalist hasn’t won the U.S. Senior Amateur since John Richardson in 1987.

Bracket Games

While those at the top of the leader board battle for medalist honors, the bigger drama will be where the match-play cut will fall. Only 64 competitors qualify for match play, and after the first round, that number stood at 5 over par. Historical projections say the projected cut will likely be 10 or 11 over par.

Some of the luminaries who need good rounds on Sunday include USGA champions Tim Jackson, George “Buddy” Marucci, Marvin “Vinny” Giles and Mike McCoy, as well as 2018 British Senior Amateur champion Trevor Foster, of England, the lone international player in the field.

Given the available daylight, the USGA hopes to conduct any possible playoff for the final spots in the draw after the conclusion of Round 2 on Sunday.

Quick Turnaround

On Friday morning, Randy Haag was at Spyglass Hill in Pebble Beach, Calif., competing in the championship match of the Northern California Golf Association Match Play. That afternoon, following a 2-and-1 defeat to Tony Padilla that ended Haag’s two-year title run, the Orinda, Calif., resident was on a flight from San Francisco to Eugene, where the 59-year-old managed to tour the course on a golf cart.

Despite no practice round and a morning tee time, Haag, the runner-up in this year’s British Senior Amateur, posted an even-par 72. Then again, Haag had played Eugene Country Club under championship conditions before. He advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1993 U.S. Mid-Amateur, losing to eventual champion Jeff Thomas, 3 and 2, and competed in a pair of Pacific Coast Amateurs.

Great Start by Rookie

Since turning 55 a decade ago, Dennis Smith, of Lafayette, La., has attempted to qualify for the Senior Amateur four times. His time finally came this year and the USGA championship “rookie” made the most of his first start on Saturday by opening with a bogey-free 69. Smith picked up the game as a teenager and played a lot of golf with Lionel Hebert, the winner of the 1957 PGA Championship. Lionel’s older brother, Jay, also won the PGA Championship in 1960.

But while he played a lot of competitive golf locally and within the state, it wasn’t until his mid-50s that he tried to qualify for a USGA championship. After high school, he immediately went to work in his family’s bottling business and he recently purchased the company.

In the last few years, he’s rededicated himself to playing golf at a high level.

Now he’s in excellent position to qualify for match play.

Duck, Duck Caddie

With the start of the fall semester and first tournament still a month away, five members of the University of Oregon golf teams are serving as caddies this week on a course they know quite well. Edwin Yi, Ryan Gronlund and Kevin Geniza from the men’s golf team, and Madi Daniel and Kathleen Scavo from the women’s team have been helping players on the challenging Eugene Country Club layout. Men’s coach Casey Martin, who grew up playing at Eugene Country Club, played an integral role in getting the players caddie jobs. In addition, Oregon men’s assistant coach Brad Lanning and his son, Gavin, also caddied.

Two years ago, Eugene hosted the men’s and women’s NCAA Division I Championships, with the Oregon men’s team winning the title.

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

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