Storylines Abound as the U.S. Senior Am Cut to the Final 8
The quarterfinals will feature four intriguing matchups<br>(USGA photos)
The quarterfinals will feature four intriguing matchups
(USGA photos)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (August 29, 2017) - Eight players remain that the 63rd U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Minikahda after a long day of matches that saw 24 players eliminated from the championship.

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Related: TOURNAMENT CENTRAL: U.S. Senior Amateur Live Updates

Last year's finalists still alive

As unlikely as it might have been before the tournament started, a rematch of last year's championship is still possible, as both the champion Dave Ryan (Taylorsville, IL) and runner-up Matthew Sughrue (Arlington, VA) are among the final eight players, and are on opposite sides of the draw.

Ryan took control of his match with Michael Hughett of Tulsa, OK with wins at 7, 10, and 12 to go three up, then held on for a 2&1 win. For the third straight match, Sughrue was under par for his round, making three birdies and an eagle on the driveable par-five 5th, to take out his fellow Virginian Keith Decker of Martinsville, 3&2. Sughrue was one down through eight holes but was flawless from there, going two under the rest of the way.

Sughrue told the USGA about the challenge of blocking out last year's close call and stay in the present. “Once the ‘match-play march,’ as I call it, begins, you have to play really well and be a little bit lucky to win five matches and make it to the final,” said Sughrue. “I don’t have any expectations of that at all. My motto is to play each match as well as I can, knock them down one at a time.”

Past champions collide

Two-time (2010, 2012) U.S. Senior Amateur champion Paul Simson of Raleigh, NC moved one step closer to a third title, winning a surprisingly lopsided match over the 2015 champion Chip Lutz of Reading, PA. The 66-year-old Simson played great golf throughout the match, starting with four birdies in his first seven holes, and winning 8 of 12 holes starting at the 3rd. Simson finished the equivalent of four under (a score, had he parred out, that would have beaten his age) and won the match 6&4.

David Brown caddying for Sean Knapp
The stroke play medalist David Brown is
now Sean Knapp's caddie (USGA photo)
Knapp marches on in first U.S. Senior

Sean Knapp of Oakmont, PA, who earlier in the week said was in "panic mode" about the high expectations he was facing competing in his first U.S. Senior Amateur, moved into the quarterfinals with a 2&1 win over another former champion, the 2013 winner Doug Hanzel of Savannah, GA. After the morning round, Knapp said that his formula for match play was "playing solid golf, and forcing your opponent to make mistakes, and try to not give any holes away", and he stuck to it against Hanzel. Knapp only made two bogeys in the match, and was steady as Hanzel's two bogey 6s on par fives ultimately proved to be the difference.

Knapp's quarterfinal opponent will be David Nocar of Millersville, MD, who was taking on a hot player in John McClure of Los Angeles, CA. Nocar took it to McClure early, winning four holes in a row to go four up through five holes. McClure started chipping away at that lead, getting it down to one hole with two to go, but could get no closer at Nocar parred the last two holes for a 2 up win.

Two dominating performances

Ken Lee of Franklin, TN played the shortest match of the day, winning 8 of the 13 holes played against Bob Cooper of Monroe, LA and winning 6&5. Lee will now play the defending champion Ryan in the quarterfinals.

John Pierce of San Antonio, TX broke open a close match with Russ Perry of Winston-Salem, NC to win 4&3. Perry was one up at the turn, but Pierce ran off five winning holes in a row starting at the 10th to take control of the match.

A fantastic finish to the Round of 16

Each of the other seven matches were long over as Frank Vana, Jr. (Boxford, MA) and Alan Hill (Spring Branch, TX) battled for the 8th and final quarterfinal spot. It was a back-and-forth affair, with Hill taking a two-up lead early, Vana rallying to take the lead at the 12th, Hill bouncing back to go one up at the 15th, then Vana winning the next two holes to regain the advantage going to the 18th.

Facing elimination, Hill came through with a long birdie putt on the 18th and sent the match into extra holes. On the 19th, Vana was hit the green about 25 feet away while Hill's approach from a fairway bunker bounded long right up against a boundary fence. He elected to go back to the fairway bunker to take an unplayable lie penalty drop, was on the green in four and improbably made another long putt for a five. Still, Vana had two putts for the win and he rolled his putt close enough for the concession.

Quarterfinal Matches

David Nocar v. Sean Knapp
Ken Lee v. Dave Ryan
Matt Sughrue v. Paul Simson
John Pierce v. Frank Vana, Jr.

Wednesday will be another full day with two more rounds of matches, after which the final two will play for the championship on Thursday morning.

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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