By Mike Dudurich (Twitter @MikeDudurich) for the WPGA.
Sean Knapp (WPGA photo)
FOX CHAPEL, Penn. (August 20, 2018) – The winner of the 118th West Penn Amateur Championship is 56 years old.
The player he beat by a stroke is 17 years old and will begin his senior year of high school next week.
As remarkable as both of those things are, something even more remarkable took place Monday afternoon Fox Chapel Golf Club.
That 56-year-old, Sean Knapp, won the Amateur for a record-tying eighth time. He tied none other than W.C. Fownes, Jr. the son of Oakmont Country Club founder, H.C. Fownes.
“Sure it is,” Knapp responded when asked if his eighth title was more special than any others. “I like winning when it’s of an historical nature. It’s been over 100 years since somebody has won eight. So, yes, this one is special.”
Fownes, by the way, won his titles in 1904, 1905, 1907, 1909, 1910, 1911, 1913 and 1916.
As often happens in high-level events such as this, the battle between Knapp and the 17-year-old, Brady Pevarnik, was an up-and-down thing throughout the day. Playing two groups ahead of Knapp, Pevarnik birdied three of his first five holes and made no bogeys on the front and found himself in the lead after nine.
Knapp also birdied three of the first five, but his front nine also included three bogeys and he posted an even-par 35 on the front. Knapp bogeyed the 10th and birdied the 11th and 13th and posted five pars to get in at one-under 69.
Pevarnik made a bogey on the par 3 11th when he missed the green and also bogeyed 16 and 18. In between he birdied the 17th.
The bogey on 18 allowed Knapp to play for par on the 18th, especially given the fact Knapp’s driver cracked on the tee shot on the final hole.
“It’s really impressive to see Sean win,” Pevarnik, who will be a senior at Greater Latrobe High School, said. “He’s stayed in shape and looks like he could still play basketball.”
Knapp, of course, played college basketball at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Since that time, Knapp has won West Penn Am’s in 1988, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003. For the math challenged, those numbers show Knapp won his first one 30 years ago and Monday’s came 15 years after his last.
Knapp has been in the final group each of the last three years and has never missed a cut. He’s never finished lower than 11th in the event.
“I’m also big on winning on historical courses,” he said. “And this is a very historic course. It’s a very big win for me.”
Knapp last week competed in the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach and, after failing to get into match play, sent the following text: Bomber heaven dude. If you don’t hit it 320 you’re down the road.
He faced the same dilemma this week in a field that had bombers like Palmer Jackson, Mark Goetz, Pevarnik and Adam Hoffman. But this time being outdriven 40-50 yards on many holes wasn’t a critical factor.
“At some point you like to feel like you’re in the tournament and then at another you feel like you have a chance to win,” Knapp said. “I’ve had success in this event before, everybody else had yet to win it. Another cool thing. I won this in the 80s, 90s, 2000s and now 2010s.”
Is there another Amateur title in Knapp’s arsenal, one that would make him the winningest champion in history?
“I don’t know how many more times I can be in this position,” he said.
The look in his eyes said he’d very much like to be in the very same place next year.
Monday’s 18-hole finish was necessitated by a terrific storm that clobbered Fox Chapel on July 2 after one round of the 36-hole day had been completed. The storm was so powerful no further play could be held and the decision was made to complete it on August 20, the first mutually agreeable date on the schedule of the WPGA and the club.
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ABOUT THE WPGA Amateur
Started in 1899 and played all but two
1917-18, during World War I, the West
Amateur is one of the oldest regional
championships in the country. The 54-hole
tournament starts with a field of 78
holes the first day, with a cut to the low
and ties (or within seven shots of the
the second day. 18 holes of stroke play
qualifying held at multiple sites for non-
players prior to the championship.
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