U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR
3 Things to Know: Match Play
August 26, 2019 | Durham, N.C.
By David Shefter, USGA
Despite some rain, which was heavy at times during Saturday’s first round, the stroke-play portion of the 65th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Old Chatham Golf Club concluded on schedule Sunday. The 9-for-3 playoff for the final spots in the 64-player match-play draw will be conducted Monday morning starting on the 10th hole.
Over the next four days, the 64 surviving competitors are hoping to win six consecutive 18-hole matches, with the goal being the next person to have his name engraved on the Frederick L. Dold Trophy. Last year, Jeff Wilson ended a 31-year medalist drought when the Californian defeated 2017 champion Sean Knapp in the title match. Now he’s looking to become the first person in 39 years to successfully defend. William C. Campbell, the 1964 U.S. Amateur champion, is the last player to go back-to-back in the Senior Amateur (1979-80).
Here are three other things to know as the championship enters the knockout stage:
Lucky 13 for Simson?
Death, taxes and Paul Simson winning a first-round match. In all 12 of his previous appearances, the 68-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., has not only advanced to match play, but he owns a remarkable 12-0 record in the Round of 64. The two-time U.S. Senior Amateur champion (2010 and 2012) and 2017 runner-up has been one of the championship’s stalwarts since his first start in 2006 at Victoria National Golf Club in Newburgh, Ind. Simson, who has his son, Phillip, serving as his caddie once again this week, had to grind his way into the draw after opening with a 77, his highest score in 26 championship rounds. But his 33-10 match-play record shows that the University of New Mexico graduate is a tough out for 2016 runner-up Matt Sughrue.
“I tend concentrate on every shot that much harder. Let’s face it, I’ve had some fortunate breaks and I have a little bit of experience on most of the field. I always tell Phillip, when you start using age as an excuse that’s a sign you are getting old.”
Over the last 5-6 years, Gene Elliott has seen a lot of longtime friends finally break through and win a USGA championship. Fellow Iowan and U.S. Amateur Four-Ball partner Mike McCoy took the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and in the U.S. Senior Amateur, Doug Hanzel (2013), Chip Lutz (2015), Sean Knapp (2017) and Jeff Wilson (2018) have claimed titles. Could this be the year for the 57-year-old Elliott, who is making his 33rd USGA appearance?
His game is definitely trending in the right direction after registering a bogey-free, 4-under 68 on Sunday, matching the lowest round of the championship.
“You just never know,” said Elliott, whose best finish was reaching the quarterfinals of the 2006 U.S. Mid-Amateur. “If you knock on the door long enough maybe it will open and maybe it won’t. I have had a good run in senior golf the last couple of years. I really came into this tournament trying to put no pressure on myself. This is the big one everybody wants to win but I have just been trying to downplay it and just go out and have fun.”
Like Simson, Chip Lutz, 64, of Reading, Pa., has enjoyed plenty of USGA success since turning 55. The 2015 U.S. Senior Amateur champion rebounded from Saturday’s first-round 75 with a 68 on Sunday to continue his streak of qualifying for match play in every appearance (10-for-10). Lutz has also has advanced to the semifinals four times, including last year when he lost to Sean Knapp, and owns an impressive 25-8 overall match record.
“Obviously, there is an experience factor, which is helpful and a calming effect knowing that you have been there before,” said Lutz. “The other thing is there’s the law of diminishing returns with age as well. This is my 10th. I am noticing my driving is not as long, but my iron play is still pretty solid. And my putting was good [in stroke play]. So all things considered, I am pleased.”
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.