LORTON, Va. (July 18, 2013) – This time, Sean Knapp didn’t need any late-match heroics. The 51-year-old advanced to the third round of match play at the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in convincing fashion.
Knapp and a pair of 16-year-olds – Sam Horsfield and Zecheng Dou – were among the group of 16 second-round winners on Thursday morning 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.
Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., never led in his opening-round match against Jon Trasamar until he chipped in to win on the 19th hole. Conversely, he never trailed in his second-round match against Joshua Stone, which Knapp won, 5 and 4.
A birdie on No. 2 put Knapp 1 up and a tee shot to within 10 feet combined with a miscue from Stone at the 186-yard fourth gave Knapp a two-hole advantage.
“Josh gave me some openings early on and I played very well after that,” said Knapp, who also played in last week’s U.S. Senior Open at Omaha (Neb.) Country Club.
Knapp won the sixth hole with a par, then the players exchanged birdies at the eighth and ninth. The turning point came on the 10th hole, where Stone, of Stockton, Calif., put his approach to 6 feet, while Knapp, for the second straight day, spun his ball off the front of the green and up against the collar.
“I looked at my caddie and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if we do this again?’” said Knapp, who holed a similar shot in Wednesday’s first-round match. “And I made it.”
What appeared likely be a two-hole lead at the turn was suddenly 4 up in Knapp’s favor when Stone missed his birdie putt.
“At 2 up I know anything can happen with nine holes to go,” said Knapp. “I saw that Joshua came back on Garrett [Rank, the stroke-play medalist] yesterday and was thinking about that. At 4 up though, I felt pretty good about the way I was playing.”
In a back-and-forth match that featured only five halved holes, Zecheng Dou, of The People’s Republic of China, stormed past San Saunders, of Albuquerque, N.M., 3 and 2. Dou began the round erratically with two bogeys and two double bogeys over the first six holes.
“My dad was putting some pressure on me, asking ‘Why is the ball going right?’” said Dou, with a smile. “But I told him it was OK, that I’d fix it.”
He did – and quickly. Trailing 3 down, Dou’s game began to click. He won four of five holes starting on No. 7, making three birdies and holing out from 50 yards for eagle at No. 10 during that stretch, to swing the momentum of the match in his favor.
“My game just started to click,” said Dou. “With Sam up there about 3 feet [from the hole], I assumed he’d make it so I just tried to get it as close as I could – and it dropped in.”
Horsfield, of England, jumped ahead early in his match with Nick Brothers, winning hole Nos. 2, 3 and 5 with pars. Brothers pulled to within 2 down with birdies on the eighth and 11th, both par 3s, but a steady diet of pars on the inward nine by Horsfield pulled him through to the third round.
“I didn’t hit the ball as well as yesterday,” said Horsfield, “but I made some key par saves on up-and-downs and was able to hold on coming in.”
The 2012 APL medalist, James Erkenbeck, of San Diego; 2008 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Cameron Peck, of Olympia, Wash.; and 2013 USA Walker Cup Team member Michael Kim all advanced as well. Erkenbeck edged Brandon Cigna, of Arlington, Va., in 19 holes; Peck held off George Cunningham, of Tucson, Ariz., 3 and 1; and Michael Kim defeated Lucas Kim, of Canada, 2 up.
The third round of match play began at 12:30 p.m. EDT. The winners will advance to the quarterfinals, which are scheduled to begin Friday at 7:30 a.m. EDT. All quarterfinalists are exempt into the 2014 APL.