U.S. Senior Amateur Round of 32 Match Play Report
Sean Knapp (L) is congratulated by Scott Thomas<br>(R) after an impressive 6&5 win (USGA photo)
Sean Knapp (L) is congratulated by Scott Thomas
(R) after an impressive 6&5 win (USGA photo)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (August 29, 2017) - Sixteen players remain that the 63rd U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Minikahda after a stirring morning of Round of 32 matches that saw a mix of down-to-the-wire thrillers and dominating performances.

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The defending champion has moved on to the Final 16. Dave Ryan of Taylorsville, IL put it in a steady performance in a 2&1 win over Ronald LaVerdiere of Amherst, MA. Only 4 of the 17 holes were won, and Ryan made 14 pars in the match. All square through 13 holes, Ryan parred in as LaVerdiere lost shots at 14 and 17.

Last year's runner-up Matthew Sughrue (Arlington, VA) might be playing the best golf of anyone in championship. After shooting four under par in stroke play qualifying, Sughrue won his first match 3&1 over Dave Szewczul, shooting the equivalent of three under par. His momentum continued on Tuesday morning, as he carded five birdies against a single over-par hole (a double on the 14th) to take out John Fisher (Collierville, TN) 4&3.

The stroke play medalist has been knocked out of the championship. David Brown of Ligonier, PA shot a six-under 138 to beat the field by two shots in stroke play qualifying, but he ran into John McClure of Los Angeles, CA who took control of the match in the middle of the round and won 3&2.

Doug Hanzel
Doug Hanzel is one of four past champs
in the Final 16 (USGA photo)
The 2013 U.S. Senior champion Doug Hanzel (Savannah, GA) won the match of the morning against Ned Zachar of Bedford, NY. Zachar jumped to a three hole lead through five holes and was three under for the round until a string of three straight bogeys from 8-10 allowed Hanzel to square the match. Hanzel's birdie on the par-five 13th gave him the lead for the first time in the match, a lead he would hold until the 18th, when a bogey sent the match to extra holes. On the 20th hole, Hanzel rolled in a birdie that won the match.

His opponent in the third round had a far easier time in his match. Sean Knapp, who admitted earlier in the championship to be in "panic mode" battling high expectations in his U.S. Senior debut, scored an impressive 6&5 win over Scott Thomas of Chesterfield, MO. Knapp is building momentum now and credits experience and a relationship with a five-time USGA champion for his match play mindset.

“Nathan Smith and I are good friends," Knapp told the USGA. "At the end of the day, I’ve watched him go about his business. Even though it’s my first Senior Am, I’ve played in a lot of Mid-Ams, U.S. Ams, and there’s a formula. You can’t always accomplish it, but it’s about playing solid golf, and forcing your opponent to make mistakes, and try to not give any holes away, and I did a good job of that today.”

Keith Decker (Martinsville, VA) made an improbable comeback against Gene Elliott (W. Des Moines, IA), who had been playing some of the best golf of the championship over the last two days. Elliott got off to a hot start, making four birdies in the first seven holes to go three up, and the margin was still three up with five holes to play. But Elliott ran into trouble down the stretch, making a bogey and a double as Decker won the next three holes, then bogeying the 18th as Decker made par to close out the match 1 up.

“I made an unbelievable chip-in on No. 15, one that goes in maybe one out of 100 times, and I wound up winning the hole," Decker told the USGA. "It looked like he was going to win it, so it was one of those reversal things. He’s a better player than me, I just got lucky coming in. I’m happy to be going on. He hit a great putt [for par on No. 18], but he hit it just a little too firm, otherwise we’d be going down No. 1 right now.”

Two-time U.S. Senior champion Paul Simson (Raleigh, NC) held off John Hornbeck (Saratoga, WY) 1 up. His opponent for the Round of 16 will be the 2015 U.S. Senior champion, Chip Lutz (Reading, PA), who made quick work of Don Donatoni (Malvern, PA) 5&4. Lutz had an interesting perspective on playing friends in such a highly competitive environment.

"I had one of my best friends early, Dave Nelson, and Don [Donatoni] is a good friend from Philadelphia," Lutz told the USGA. "And now I’ve got Paul [Simson], and he’s a good friend. It’s fun but yet it’s tough when you’re friends and people you hang with a lot, but I’m sure we’ll still be friends after.”

Round of 16 Matches

John McClure (Los Angeles, CA) v. David Nocar (Millersville, MD)
Sean Knapp (Oakmont, PA) v. Doug Hanzel (Savannah, GA)
Bob Cooper (Monroe, LA) v. Ken Lee (Franklin, TN)
Dave Ryan (Taylorville, IL) v. Michael Hughett (Tulsa, OK)
Matt Sughrue (Arlington, VA) v. Keith Decker (Martinsville, VA)
Paul Simson (Raleigh, NC) v. Chip Lutz (Reading, PA)
John Pierce (San Antonio, TX) v. Russ Perry (Winston-Salem, NC)
Frank Vana, Jr. (Boxford, MA) v. Alan Hill (Spring Branch, TX)

ABOUT THE U.S. Senior Amateur

The USGA Senior Amateur is open to those with a USGA Handicap Index of 7.4 or lower, who are 55 or older on or before the day the championship begins. It is one of 14 national championships conducted annually by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs.

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