WEST CALDWELL, N.J. (Oct. 2, 2012) -- Defending champion Louis Lee, 56, of Heber Springs, Ark., won two matches Tuesday to advance to the quarterfinal round of the 2012 USGA Senior Amateur Championship at the rain-soaked par-71, 6,838-yard Mountain Ridge Country Club.
Steve Golliher, 57, of Knoxville, Tenn., also won two matches, including a 3-and-2 decision over Gary Hardin, of Fort Worth, Texas, in the third round. Golliher, who is playing in his first USGA Senior Amateur, is the highest seed remaining at No. 3 after medalist Jim Holtgrieve, 64, of St. Louis, was ousted earlier in the day.
Play was suspended due to darkness at 6:33 p.m. EDT with one third-round match still to be decided. Moderate to steady rains prompted a 52-minute delay in the mid-afternoon.
The quarterfinal and semifinal rounds will be played Wednesday, and the championship is scheduled to conclude with an 18-hole final on Thursday, starting at 9 a.m. EDT.
The USGA Senior Amateur, for players 55 and older, is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.
Under drier conditions in the morning, Lee posted a 6-and-4 triumph over Mountain Ridge club champion Jay Blumenfeld, 60, of Parsippany, N.J. Lee later returned to a wet course and defeated Donald Detweiler, 60, of Raleigh, N.C., 3 and 2.
“Everything was hit, slop, spray,” Lee said. “I didn’t play very well; I think I was a couple over par but in these conditions that’s not bad. A win’s a win. I was just trying to keep everything dry.”
Golliher built a 6-up lead over Hardin by winning four consecutive holes on the outward nine with pars. In the morning, he earlier recorded a 3-and-1 win over John Ervasti of Brooklyn, N.Y. Golliher, a stockbroker for Hilliard Lyons, won four of five holes in the middle of the round with two birdies and two pars.
“I am tickled to death,” Golliher said. “I am doing this all over again tomorrow. This afternoon it was a survival contest out here. I played well and missed two greens [through No. 13], but then I lost my rhythm at the end.”
Paul Simson, the 2010 Senior Amateur champion, fought off the youngest player in the field, defeating Joe Russo, 55, of Sewell, N.J., in the third round, 2 and 1. Simson, 61, of Raleigh, N.C., took the lead on No. 14 when Russo missed a short par putt. He went 2 up on the 117-yard, par-3 16th by hitting his tee shot close.
“It was just a good old wedge, knocked it in there maybe 15 or 18 inches,” said Simson, a quarterfinalist in this championship last year. “Once you have a guy dormie with a couple of holes left, you have to feel pretty confident.”
Two players who advanced to match play by surviving Monday’s playoff each posted two wins. After dispatching No. 2 seed Stan Kinsey in the first round, Pat O’Donnell, 58, of Happy Valley, Ore., won in 22 holes over Owen Joyner of Spring, Texas, in his morning match, before capturing a 1-up decision over James Pearson of Charlotte, N.C., in the third round. Jim Knoll, 60, of Sunnyvale, Calif., came from three down with four holes to play for a 1-up victory over Sam Till Jr., of Fort Wayne, Ind., in the second round. He jumped out to a big lead in the afternoon en route to a 3-and-2 victory over Steven Ford of Trappe, Md.
“I am not playing my best golf,” said Knoll, who opened match play Monday with a win over reigning British and Canadian Senior Amateur champion Chip Lutz. “I am holding it together with duct tape. My short game has helped me make a lot of pars.”
Doug Hanzel, 55, of Savannah, Ga., and Randal Lewis, 55, of Alma, Mich., were paired in a third-round matchup of the only players to have participated in this year’s U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur, Mid-Amateur and Senior Amateur events. Hanzel led wire-to-wire in winning, 4 and 3.
Earlier in the day, Gerardo Ramirez, 56, of San Antonio, made his first Senior Amateur memorable by rallying from 3 down on the inward nine to defeat Holtgrieve. The 2011 and 2013 USA Walker Cup captain ran into trouble when he bogeyed No. 11 and carded a double bogey on the par-4 13th after driving into the hazard. Holtgrieve’s three-putt at the par-3 14th squared the match.
“That was a big mistake [at No. 11],” said Holtgrieve, the 1981 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. “I had 92 yards [to the hole] and hit it right. I didn’t do my education enough and study the golf course enough. It’s going to roll, catching the hill, and goes down to the [collection] area. I tried to putt it up and it came back to me. If I hit that sand wedge left of the hole, it would have been all different.”