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Match play begins at U.S. Pub-Links
LORTON, Va. (July 17, 2013) -- As a financial advisor, numbers are important to Sean Knapp. Age has never been one of them.

The 51-year-old made a long eagle putt at the 18th hole and chipped in on the 19th to advance to the second round of match play in the 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at the 7,022-yard, par-70 Laurel Hill Golf Club.

The APL is one of 13 individual national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

For the second consecutive year, posting the best 36-hole total in stroke-play qualifying has not translated to match-play success. Medalist Garrett Rank, of Canada, led 3 up at the turn, but was eventually ousted by Joshua Stone in 19 holes.

Other winners on Wednesday included 2012 APL medalist James Erkenbeck, 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Cameron Peck and Michael Kim, who earlier in the day was named to the 2013 USA Walker Cup Team.

Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., was consistently outdriven some 50 yards by his opponent, Jon Trasamar, but managed to keep the match close throughout. Trasamar, of Minneapolis, led 2 up through 10, but he made bogeys on both of the par 3s on the inward nine to square the match with four holes to play. According to Knapp, that’s when the excitement started.

With Trasamar within 3 feet for birdie on the par-5 15th, Knapp coolly rolled in his 25-foot birdie putt to keep the match even. Both players made par on the par-3 16th, then Trasamar took advantage of his length on the 490-yard, par-4 17th. After Knapp just missed the green with a 3-wood, Trasamar knocked a mid-iron approach to 15 feet and drained the putt to go 1 up.

Both players hit the fairway at the par-5 18th. Knapp, playing first, hit a 5-wood over the water hazard guarding the front-right of the green that settled on the putting surface, 27 feet away. Trasamar played conservatively to the left of the well-protected green. He chipped up to within 4 feet, which left Knapp in a likely must-make situation. With all the pressure on him, Knapp delivered again, draining the putt for eagle to square the match and send it to extra holes.

After missing the green to the right with his approach on the first playoff hole, a 463-yard par 4, Knapp misjudged his third shot and sent it through the green. Trasamar also found trouble on the hole, driving it into the fairway bunker. He was able to get his second shot within 20 yards of the green and pitched to 6 feet. Seemingly at a disadvantage, Knapp quickly turned the tables by chipping in for par. When Trasamar missed the putt to halve, Knapp was the unlikely winner.

“Match play is a cruel animal,” said Knapp, who never led until his chip-in on the 19th. “I’ve been in that situation where someone steals it from you. It’s tough, but I’m just happy to live to play another day.”

Knapp will play Stone, 23, of Stockton, Calif., whose defeat of Rank was one of the biggest surprises of the week thus far.

Playing in his first USGA championship, Stone was 3 down to Rank through nine holes before turning his game around.

“I think what really turned it for me was [No.] 11,” said Stone, who had just won the 10th with a birdie to cut his deficit to two holes. “I hit it to 12 feet, but he dropped it inside me about 3 feet away. I had a really tricky putt, but made it to stay within two.”

Stone then birdied Nos. 13 and 14 to square the match and hit the green in two on the par-5 18th, which set up a two-putt birdie that halved the hole and forced a playoff.

With Stone in the fairway on the first playoff hole, Rank hooked his tee shot into the left fescue and lost his ball. Rank’s second tee shot found the left rough, allowing Stone to play conservatively and win the hole and the match with a bogey 5.

“After I lost my tee shot on [No.] 8, I thought it might not be my day,” said Stone. “But I hit two good shots on [No.] 9, and even though I three-putted, I was happy with making two really good swings. That turned it around for me.”

Stone felt fortunate to even be in match play considering how his championship started. He bogeyed his first hole and quadruple-bogeyed his second hole to stand five-over through two. He managed to play even-par golf the rest of the way, however, to join the 13-for-11 playoff at 5-over 145. Stone three-putted for bogey on the first playoff hole Tuesday evening, but was able to make par on the 10th hole Wednesday to earn a spot in the match-play field.

“It’s been a crazy three days,” said Stone. “I’m just relieved to be through [to match play].”

Erkenbeck, of San Diego, defeated Justin Wenger, of Greenwood, Ind., 3 and 2. Peck, of Olympia, Wash., eliminated Zachary Moore, of Orlando, Fla., 4 and 3, while Kim, of Del Mar, Calif., defeated Brandon Hortt, of Spring Valley, Calif., 8 and 6.

Brandon Cigna, 27, of Arlington, Va., kept hopes alive for a local champion with his win in 20 holes over 22-year-old Zac Blair. The circumstances were flipped for Blair, of Ogden, Utah, who was a gallery and media darling at Soldier Hollow in his home state at last year’s APL. With a group of supporters following him, Cigna birdied the 18th hole to force extra holes and defeated Blair with a birdie on the second extra hole.

The 32 players who advanced on Wednesday will play their second-round matches at Laurel Hill on Thursday morning, beginning at 7 a.m. EDT. The winners will advance to the third round of match play, which is scheduled to begin at noon EDT. The 36-hole championship final is set for Saturday.

Results For U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship
Place  Pts
WinWIJordan NiebruggeMequon, WI1000
Runner-upCAMichael KimDel Mar, CA700
SemifinalsCAJames ErkenbeckSan Diego, CA500
SemifinalsJapanEric SugimotoJapan500
QuarterfinalsCAAustin SmothermanLoomis, CA400

View full results for U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship

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