Sean Knapp (USGA photo)
EUGENE, Ore. (Aug. 27, 2018) – Several familiar faces advanced Monday in the first round of match play at the U.S. Senior Amateur. At the top of the bracket, No. 1 seed Greg Condon
led the way with a 4-and-3 victory over Kirk Wright at Eugene Country Club.
Condon, 56, of Monte Vista, Colo., lost the opening hole to Wright, a 57-year-old retired firefighter from Oklahoma City, Okla., but claimed Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 9 to take a 3-up lead into the second nine. The two competitors halved the next five holes before Condon’s conceded birdie on the 15th hole ended the match.
For the second day in a row, Condon didn’t think he was firing on all cylinders, but it hardly cost him.
“Today, I was a little off,” he said. “I didn’t play very well. I would mess up and he would mess up. That’s just kind of how it went. I hit a couple good shots when I needed to. Sometimes, match play goes that way.”
Defending champion Sean Knapp
drew on past experience on Monday. He also walked and carried his own bag, though he’s not sure if he’ll do that again on Tuesday, which would be a 36-hole day if he wins his morning Round of 32 match. It might work out to be a disadvantage.
On Monday, Knapp, 56, of Oakmont, Pa., built as much as a 4-up lead before holding on to defeat 2015 runner-up Tom Brandes, 62, of Bellevue, Wash., 2 and 1. Knapp is now 7-0 in match play in the Senior Amateur after taking last year’s title at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis in his first year of eligibility.
“When you play the better players in the country – and Tom is one of them – you just know they are just not going to give it to you,” said Knapp, who recorded six birdies. “I probably don’t win that match unless I win last year. What I mean by that is I don’t know him or much about him. All I know is his reputation. And when a guy plays really, really well – and he was playing well – it would have been easy for me to say, ‘What’s going on here?’ and be a little confused. Ins
tead, I didn’t have any of that.”
, 55, of Fairfield, Calif., the only player in USGA history to be medalist in the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Mid-Amateur and the U.S. Senior Amateur, had a back-and-forth affair with Richard Jeffers, 63, of Mobile, Ala., until Wilson, 2018 U.S. Senior Open low amateur, took control by winning holes 11, 12, 14 and 16 to register a 3-and-2 victory.
“I think I just made up my mind to start playing and quit worrying about what was going on, because I really didn’t play very well the first 10 or 11 holes,” said Wilson. “I was fortunate to be [all square] after 11.”
The match of the day saw 2008 U.S. Senior Amateur champion George “Buddy” Marucci
, 66, of Villanova, Pa., outlast 2018 British Senior Amateur runner-up Randy Haag
, 59, of Orinda, Calif., in 21 holes. Haag pulled his approach on the par-4 third hole, leaving himself a virtually impossible up-and-down. Marucci lagged his birdie putt to within 2 feet, and Haag conceded the par putt when he failed to convert his 30-foot par attempt.
“It’s been a while. Normally, I get beaten before that,” said Marucci, the 1995 U.S. Amateur runner-up, on playing 21 holes. “We didn’t play our best. Randy is a lot better player than he showed today. I’m a little over the hill, but he was kind of nice to me. Every once in a while, you get a break.”
Haag is coming off a week in which he was runner-up at the NCGA Senior Match Play in Pebble Beach, Calif. He played the championship match Friday morning, then flew to Oregon that afternoon and teed it up the next morning for stroke-play qualifying.
Resilience is the beauty of this championship. After his 2-and-1 win over Bob Royak, 70-year-old John Grace
put it this way: “I’m having fun. I don’t feel 70. I really hit it well. I kept it in play all day and made very few mistakes.”
The championship continues with two more rounds of match play on Tuesday. The quarterfinal and semifinal matches are scheduled for Wednesday, with the 18-hole final on Thursday morning.
Information from the USGA used in this report