Newburgh, Ind. (Sept 20, 2006) -– Co-medalist Bill Leonard, 57, of Kennesaw, Ga., was one of four players to win two matches Wednesday to advance to the semifinals of the 2006 USGA Senior Amateur at Victoria National Golf Club.
Leonard defeated 2004 Senior Amateur champion Mark Bemowski of Mukwonago, Wis., 3 and 2, in the third round and then David Rasley, 58, of Bethesda, Md., 1 up, in the quarterfinals.
The golf retail store manager from near Atlanta faces Tom McGraw, 55, of Montgomery, Texas, in the first of two semifinal matches Thursday morning.
In the other semifinal, Mike Bell, 59, of Indianapolis, Ind., who beat co-medalist Paul Simson in the third round, faces Sam Farlow, 59, of Birmingham, Ala. Both players were alternates into the field.
Leonard won the first seven holes of his match with Bemowski, a three-time finalist, and never trailed in his victory. Leonard was the equivalent of 5-under-par in taking his 7-up lead.
"I did play very solid the first eight holes,” Leonard said of that match. “I hadn’t made any putts until (Wednesday). When you are playing someone with Mark’s record you just want to compete and stay in the game and that’s what I did.”
Leonard is vying to become the first medalist to win since 1987.
The other medalist, Simson is the 2006 British Senior Amateur champion and a veteran of nearly 40 USGA events. Bell double-bogeyed his first hole against Simson, However, he rebounded quickly, winning the next five holes, including birdies on the 2nd and 4th for a 4-up lead through eight holes.
“I wasn’t afraid to compete against Paul,” said Bell, who won the 2006 Senior Porter Cup. “I was shocked that he made some bogeys because in my mind he wasn’t going to. The birdies after that horrendous start, gave me confidence.”
Bell received his place in the field when Jerry Jackson of Kokomo, Ind., withdrew.
"I’m an alternate and all of a sudden I’m in the final four,” Bell said. “And, it’s fairy tale time for me.”
McGraw, who has played in more than 10 USGA championships but is still working full-time as a commercial banker, felt the pressure in his two matches. One of them was a win over Bob Mielcarz of Concord, N..H., a two-time quarterfinalist.
“It was eight hours of tension out there,” McGraw said. “I felt like someone was shooting at me. It wasn’t ‘ha-ha’ fun.”
Farlow, who was a quarterfinalist in 2003, scratched out 19-hole victory over David Strawn of Charlotte, N.C., in the morning before defeating Eric Myrmo of Eugene, Ore., 4 and 2, in the afternoon.
"I feel wonderful,” said Farlow, who beat a young Jeff Maggert en route to the quarterfinals of the 1985 U.S. Amateur. “But, I am a little tired. That is a lot of golf. I’m afraid I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be leaving the next day for the tournament.”
Semifinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2007 U.S. Senior Open at Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wis. Quarterfinalists are exempt from qualifying for the 2007 USGA Senior Amateur at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan.
Match play continues with the semifinal and championship rounds on Thursday, which begin at 7:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. CDT, respectively.
The USGA Senior Amateur, for players 55 and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the USGA.
Story written by Pete Kowalski of USGA Media Relations. E-mail him with questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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