Jeff Wilson (USGA photo)
EUGENE, Ore. (Aug. 28, 2018) – Co-medalist Jeff Wilson
reached the quarterfinals of the 64th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship -- along with four USGA champions -- after winning a pair of matches on Tuesday at Eugene Country Club.
Wilson, 55, of Fairfield, Calif., is vying to become the first medalist in 31 years to claim the title after posting Round-of-32 and Round-of-16 victories over Buddy Path (5 and 4) and Scott Sullivan (2 and 1), respectively, to reach the final eight.
Three U.S. Senior Amateur champions also registered a pair of victories on Tuesday: Doug Hanzel
, 61, of Savannah, Ga.; Chip Lutz
, 63, of Reading, Pa.; and Sean Knapp
, 56, of Oakmont, Pa. Michael McCoy
, 55, of Des Moines, Iowa, also advanced to the quarterfinals in his Senior Amateur debut. McCoy won the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2013.
In addition to that elite group, the three other players who remain include Jerry Rose
, 59, of Sarasota, Fla.; Ned Zachar
, 56, of Bedford, N.Y.; and Craig Davis
, 56, of Chula Vista, Calif.
Wilson held a precarious 1-up lead on Scott Sullivan going to the par-4 17th hole when Wilson’s tee shot landed in a tree but didn’t come down. During the five-minute search, a gust of wind came up and knocked the ball to the ground. The Northern Californian car dealer then hit his 56-degree wedge to 10 feet for a winning birdie.
“It was one of those days where I hung in there and didn’t have a whole lot,” said Wilson, who is one of two players to be the low amateur in the U.S. Open (2000) and U.S. Senior Open (2018). “It’s not fun when it’s happening. I was fortunate today to get by.”
Knapp, looking to become the first player to win consecutive U.S. Senior Amateur titles since William C. Campbell in 1979-1980, also navigated several close encounters in winning a pair of 19-hole matches. In his morning Round-of-32 match, Jeff Burda, of Modesto, Calif., three-putted the 18th green to allow the match to go extra holes. Knapp then hit a fairway-bunker approach to 3 feet to set up a winning birdie after Burda’s long birdie attempt lipped out.
In the Round of 16, 1979 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Jack Larkin, of Atlanta, Ga., missed a 5-foot par putt on the 18th green that would have won the match. And once again Knapp birdied the first extra hole, converting a 24-footer from the fringe.
“I do not like [extra holes], but if the outcome is this way, it’s something you have to accept,” said Knapp. “I think I played the [par-4 first] hole so many times today (4) I knew the read. Every one of the guys I have played against [in match play] have played spectacularly. This was the best match by far. Jack played great. I just knew coming down the stretch, that it’s tough to bring it home.”
McCoy and Hanzel, meanwhile, had “relatively” easy Round-of-16 victories, with the former defeating Buzz Fly, of Memphis, Tenn., 5 and 4, and Hanzel, the 2013 champion, defeating 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur semifinalist Frank Vana Jr., of Boxford, Mass., 4 and 3, after dispatching 1986 U.S. Amateur champion Stewart “Buddy” Alexander, of Auburn, Ala., 7 and 6, in the Round of 32.
Zachar was 3 down after 11 holes against Gene Elliott, of West Des Moines, Iowa, before making birdies on Nos. 12, 13 and 14, and another on 17 to produce a 1-up victory. Davis knocked out two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Tim Jackson, of Memphis, Tenn., 2 and 1, while Lutz defeated 2016 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Dave Ryan, of Taylorville, Ill., 4 and 2.
Earlier on Tuesday, co-medalist and No. 1 seed Gregory Condon, 56, of Monte Vista, Colo., literally ran into a Buzz-saw, succumbing to Fly, 2 and 1.
The first of the four quarterfinal matches will begin at 7:15 a.m. PDT on Wednesday. The two semifinal matches are scheduled for Friday afternoon, starting at 1 p.m., with the 18-hole championship match starting Thursday morning at 7:30.