U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
Wyoming's Hornbeck Continues Hunt for Championship
September 21, 2016 | ST. LOUIS, MO.
By Tom Mackin
John Hornbeck put the patience developed from leading hunting trips in his native Wyoming to good use on Tuesday at the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, defeating Ken Palladino, of Dunedin, Fla., on the 20th hole to advance to the quarterfinals at Old Warson Country Club.
The 58-year-old Hornbeck was 3 up after 15 holes before Palladino, 59, fought back with a par, birdie and another par to even the match. Hornbeck, the No. 39 seed in match play, failed to convert a par putt on the 18th hole to win the match.
“My wife Pam told me to watch that putt today because of how slow it was,” he said. “I thought I hammered it, but I didn’t get it there at all.”
After both players made pars on the 19th hole, No. 10 seed Palladino missed his par putt on the 20th hole to open the door for Hornbeck.
“I was really surprised he went for that putt because it was straight downhill,” Hornbeck said. “He knocked it about 8 or 9 feet by and missed the putt coming back. I made my par putt and that was it.”
The win, coupled with his 3-and-2 victory earlier yesterday over No. 7 seed Buzz Fly, continues a stellar season for Hornbeck, who has won four senior events in Wyoming and finished second in the Wyoming State Golf Association Match Play Championship.
He also qualified for the 2016 U.S. Senior Open at Scioto Country Club, where he missed the cut. “I learned a lot from playing with the pros there about how to manage my game,” he said.
His success comes despite a short Wyoming golf season that starts in the middle of May and ends in late September. He then guides small groups on rifle hunting trips for elk, deer, antelope and bighorn sheep in the southern part of the state through October and into November.
“I’ve hunted all my life and have worked since 1990 with Chuck Sanger, who has his own outfitting company based in the town where I live,” said Hornbeck, a resident of Saratoga, 80 minutes west of Laramie. “He’s a real good friend of mine who has battled through multiple myeloma. I really don’t need to be doing it anymore, but I do it just for him. I enjoy it.”
Even in the mountains, golf is never far from his mind. “I wish I could do play golf all year round, but I can’t,” said the retired coal miner. “This has been the most expensive year of my life. We’re chasing a dream of winning a national championship and it’s just costing us a lot of money.”
Putting the clubs away for almost six months does come with a silver lining. “I think that break keeps me healthy and from getting burned out,” he said. “I don’t know how the pros do it. This was a grind today.”
Hornbeck has now easily surpassed his previous best performance in a USGA championship, when he reached the Round of 32 in the 2014 U.S. Senior Amateur at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, Calif.
He will now play Kevin Cahill of Waukesha, Wis., who defeated Steven Liebler of Irmo, S.C., 4 and 3.
“I’m thrilled to death to make it to the quarterfinals,” he said. “I love match play. The sky is the limit right now.”
Arizona resident Tom Mackin is a frequent contributor to USGA websites.