HUNTINGDON VALLEY, PA (July 27, 2005).-–Alex Knoll, 20, of Bethlehem GC, repelled a challenge from home course favorite Randy Rolfe and fellow collegiate Dan Walters of Conestoga CC to complete a gate-to-wire victory in the 92nd Amateur Championship on Wednesday at Huntingdon Valley CC.
Knoll posted a final-round 70 to finish at 2-under-par (208). He was the only competitor to finish in red figures for the 54 holes of the tournament. Rolfe and Walters (211), who birdied the final hole, tied for second place three shots behind. Michael McDermott of Merion GC and P. Chet Walsh of Philadelphia CC (213) tied for fourth five shots back.
"I thought my greatest moment in golf was qualifying for the U.S. Amateur last week, but this tops that," said Knoll, a junior at Davidson University. "I’m just so happy to win here. This was a great field on a great golf course.
"When I finished the first round in the dark [on Monday] and I was leading, I said I can win this tournament."
Knoll posted a pair of 69s to enter the third and final round with a one-shot lead.
However, a couple of bad swings early and a strong push by Rolfe put Knoll two shots behind the hometown favorite heading to the ninth tee (par 4, 460 yards). That’s where Rolfe found trouble off the tee. His second shot, from the right fescue, landed in the valley short of the green and his chip checked up to about 20 feet below the hole. Knoll’s approach on the downhill ninth left him with a difficult 12-foot birdie chance. Rolfe’s first putt came up about three feet short. He missed it. Knoll poured in his birdie opportunity and in the blink of an eye the Bethlehem resident went from two shots back to one stroke ahead. Knoll never trailed again.
"That was a big boost," said Knoll, wearing his lucky red Davidson golf shirt.
Added Rolfe, "That took the steam out of me. I hadn’t made any mistakes like that the whole tournament until then."
Knoll drained a short birdie on No. 11 (par 4, 372 yards), and converted clutch up-and-downs on Nos. 13 (par 3, 184 yards), 14 (par 4, 467 yards) and 16 (par 4, 400 yards) to keep his competitors at arm’s length.
"Those were more key to the victory than anything," said Knoll, a resident of Bethlehem, Pa.
On 13, a par 3 guarded by a lake, Knoll pushed his 8-iron right and left his chip 10 feet short. He made the putt.
On 14, his 3-iron landed in the bunker 40 yards short of the green. His bunker blasted stopped 15 feet from the hole. He made that putt as well.
On 16, still up by four shots at the time, he rolled his approach shot off the back fringe of the green. A delicate chip from an uphill slope, the ball stopped six feet shy. He drained it.
A bogey on No. 17 (par 3, 211 yards) resulted from a pulled 6-iron into the greenside bunker, but Knoll capped the victory in dramatic fashion on the difficult 18th (par 4, 434 yards) by splitting the fairway and knocking a 7-iron to 15 feet. When the birdie putt fell into the cup, Knoll raised his right arm in victory.
Knoll would only say he was a little nervous standing on the final tee box. His top finish in an Amateur prior to this was an eighth-place showing at the CC of Scranton in 2003.
Rolfe, 45, of Wyncote, Pa., the reigning Huntingdon Valley CC club champion, refused to fold. Playing with Knoll and Walters in the final threesome, Rolfe did all he could for the gallery following him.
"The difference is they have fewer bad swings. And my bad swings were worse than theirs," said Rolfe, a real estate investor. "Every time I put a little heat on Alex he was up to the task.
"I said coming in my objective was to make the cut and finish in the top 20. About midway through the second round, I changed my mind to giving myself a chance to win."
Walters, 20, of Lancaster, Pa., is going to be a senior at Rollins College.
He tied for seventh last year in the Amateur at the Fox Chapel.
Reigning Amateur Champion Blaine Peffley of Lebanon CC tied for 10th.
Next year’s Amateur Championship is set for Bent Creek CC.
A total of 44 players made the cut from the initial 132-player field.
For complete results, click on the tournament link above.