Sean Knapp and Paul Schlachter (PGA photo)
FLOURTOWN, Pa. (Aug. 8, 2018) - Sean Knapp's decorated golf career added another chapter Wednesday, as the Oakmont, Pa. resident continued his dominant run through the senior golf world, shooting a two-day total of 5-under 139 to win the 59th Pennsylvania Senior Amateur Championship, held at the Militia Hill course of the historic Philadelphia Cricket Club. The event, sponsored by LECOM, was the 16th Pennsylvania Golf Association championship of Knapp's career.
Knapp's win followed his triumph in last year's USGA Senior Amateur as well as a win in the West Penn Amateur to go along with the 2018 Pennsylvania Senior Match Play title.
"It takes breaks to win a golf tournament and I got a number of them today," said the 56-year old Knapp, who won the event despite Tuesday's first round being his first time on the grounds of the Cricket Club. "I put a premium on winning at historic, traditional golf courses so that makes this even sweeter."
For Knapp, the day started off well due to his pairing group. He shot a 69 in Tuesday's opening round and was paired with defending champion Glenn Smeraglio of Lu Lu Country Club (70 in round 1) and St. Clair Country Club's David Brown (71 in round 1).
"Look, I think so much of how things go depends on who you play with," Knapp said. "I was with Dave, a lifelong friend, and Glenn, who I've known a long time. I know how good they are and that meant that there were going to be tough moments for me today even though I started out with the lead, but I wanted that challenge."
The challenge came early in Wednesday's second round from Brown, who birdied three of his first four holes to move to 4-under par and into the lead.
"Dave kind of took the bull by the horns there early," said Knapp, a PAGA Individual Member. "He got me going and kind of punched me in the gut with that start."
Knapp had an uneven start, with two pars followed by a birdie then a bogey. But he was able to sink birdie putts on the fifth and sixth holes to move back into the lead for good. On the par-5 sixth, he was out of position with his approach but was able to make a birdie. And then on No. 7, with momentum on his side, his approach was short side in the left rough. But the veteran sank a 15-foot putt to save par. Then on No. 8, he hit the ball into the bushes on the right side and had to take an unplayable. Scrambling from there, he again saved par from about 15 feet.
After an early birdie on the back nine from about 20 feet on the 10th hole, Knapp had a lead of four shots at 6-under par. But it wasn't over. Smeraglio wasn't going to give up his crown easily. He birdied No. 11 and No. 14 while Knapp played that stretch in 1-over par. The three-shot swing put Smeraglio within two shots. Unfortunately for Smeraglio, that was as close as he would get the rest of the day.
"I played pretty well but I just wish I could have applied a little more pressure to give myself a chance going into the last hole," Smeraglio said.
The final effort to topple Knapp came at the par-5 17th hole. Knapp was 4 under and Smeraglio was 2 under. But as he did for most of the 36-hole championship, Knapp took advantage of the par 5 to stretch his lead, making a birdie while Smeraglio made par to put the margin at a nearly insurmountable three strokes heading into the last hole.
For the championship, Knapp made six birdies and two pars on the par 5s. Obviously being 6 under on those holes during an event where he finished 5 under made the difference.
"Yes, that was such a key," Knapp said of the par 5s. "It wasn't always that I hit great drives that were super long, either. There were a couple of times where I hit it in the rough and had to lay up and was able to get up and down for birdie."
Knapp followed that birdie on the penultimate hole with a par on the 18th to card a second-round 2-under 70 to win the Senior Amateur for the first time. He adds that to his list of PAGA championships that include the Amateur (one time), Art Wall (three times), Middle-Amateur (five times), Dressler (four times), Dressler Senior (one time) and Senior Match Play (one time).
Now, he's off to enjoy the fruits of his success from 2018. He is heading to Northern California for next week's U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach Golf Links before heading to Oregon to defend his US Senior Amateur title at Eugene Country Club at the end of the month. For now, he'll take another win in the Commonwealth at one of its most storied clubs.
"I really liked the golf course," Knapp said. "It was a great host for this championship."
Smeraglio finished second at 2-under 142, followed by Overbrook Golf Club's Oscar Mestre at 1 under. Tied for fourth were Brown and home club hopeful Michael Anderson, at even-par 144.
Paul Schlachter not only added his name to another Pennsylvania Golf Association championship list, but he did it in style. The four-time Senior Amateur champion shot a blistering second-round 66 to win the 16th Pennsylvania Super-Senior Championship, which was held at Philadelphia Cricket Club's Militia Hill course and presented by LECOM. Schlachter's two-round total of 8-under 136 is a new record winning score for the event. That's not bad for a player who was seeing the golf course for the first time.
"Most of us amateur golfers never quite know what we're going to have when we get to the golf course," Schlachter said. "I can't say that I was planning to do this or do that, but it worked out today."
With the win, Schlachter became the first golfer to win the Pennsylvania Amateur Championship, Pennsylvania Senior Amateur Championship and the Super-Senior Championship. In total, he has laid claim to 16 Pennsylvania Golf Association titles in his career. Wednesday's second round also marked the 19th time that the 69-year old has shot his age or better.
A PAGA individual member from Bridgeville, Pa., Schlachter started the second round trailing Whitemarsh Valley Country Club's Frank Polizzi by a shot. But a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 5 fell to give Schlachter his third red number among the opening five holes and put him in the lead for the championship.
He ran into his only real trouble of the day on the next two holes. On the 505-yard par-5 sixth hole, Schlachter hit a nice drive in the middle of the fairway about 235 yards from the green. He attempted to get close but his second shot drifted right and next to a patch of high grass that restricted him from making a full swing. After struggling to advance it out of that lie, he left himself short-sided and couldn't get up and down and made a bogey that dropped him to 4-under par for the championship.
Polizzi, who began the second round at 3 under, birdied the 6th to pull back into a tie for the lead. On the 375-yard seventh hole, Schlachter had a 9-iron approach shot and caught it a tad heavy, leaving him about 50 feet from the flag. His birdie putt ran 10 feet past, and he was looking at the possibility of ruining his hot start with back to back bogeys. But he was able to convert the huge par save and the momentum was once again back on his side.
"That putt restored my sanity," said Schlachter.
As the duo made the turn, Schlachter had a one-shot lead over Polizzi. However, Polizzi bogeyed three of the first four holes on the back nine, and Schlachter took advantage, draining a nice putt for birdie at No. 10 and parring the next three holes. Heading to the 14th, he was at 5-under par and in good shape for the win. But he didn't get complacent, as he birdied three of his last five holes including the clubhouse birdie on the 18th to finish with a sizzling 66 and another statewide win.
"Fairways and greens is what I was thinking today," Schlachter said. "I putted really well today. I actually putted well yesterday but didn't make anything, and today they went in, including a few long ones."
Schlachter was impressed with his first foray onto the Militia Hill course.
"These fairways were so perfect," he said. "It's just a terrific place to play golf. The greens were very challenging but they rolled nicely."
Polizzi finished with a two-round total of even par 144, safely in second place. In third place was PAGA individual member Vincent Scarpetta, Jr., who shot 72-74 (+2). Two former PAGA champions tied for fourth - Roc Irey and Don Erickson - at a score of 148 (+4).