Sean Knapp (USGA photo)
EUGENE, Ore. (Aug. 29, 2018) – Defending champion Sean Knapp
and co-medalist Jeff Wilson
will square off in Thursday’s 18-hole championship match of the 64th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship after each won a pair of matches Wednesday at Eugene Country Club.
Wilson, 55, of Fairfield, Calif., is seeking to become the first medalist to win the Senior Amateur title in 31 years. He rolled past Ned Zachar, 56, of Bedford, N.Y., 6 and 4, in the quarterfinals. He rallied from an early two-hole deficit in eliminating 2015 champion Chip Lutz, 63, of Reading, Pa., 2 and 1.
Knapp, 56, of Oakmont, Pa., who is vying to become the first repeat champion since William C. Campbell in 1979-80 after taking the title a year ago in his first year of eligibility, improved his U.S. Senior Amateur match-play record to 11-0 with a 4-and-3 quarterfinal victory over 2013 Senior Amateur champion Doug Hanzel, 61, of Savannah, Ga., and a 2-and-1 semifinal decision over 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Michael McCoy, 55, of Des Moines, Iowa.
Like Knapp a year ago, who won his first national championship in his 41st USGA start, Wilson has been chasing USGA titles since he first played in the U.S. Junior Amateur in the late 1970s. This was the sixth time he’s been a USGA medalist, and the car dealer is one of two competitors to have been low amateur in the U.S. Open (2000) and the U.S. Senior Open (2018). He has advanced to a pair of U.S. Mid-Amateur semifinals (2001 and 2002) and three U.S. Mid-Amateur quarterfinals (2000, 2004 and 2008), but this will be his first appearance in a final.
“[It] feels really good,” said Wilson, who estimates he’s competed in “33 or 34” USGA championships, including four U.S. Opens. “I played great today, and Chip showed why he’s a USGA champion. He was a tough out.
“Every time I’m listed, the only thing missing is a win. You know, I’ve enjoyed playing these things and I’ve had some success, but bottom line is I don’t have one.”
Knapp was in the same position last August before breaking through at The Minikahda Club with a 2-and-1 victory over two-time Senior Amateur champion Paul Simson.
En route to this year’s final match, Knapp has navigated several speed bumps, including a pair of 19-hole victories on Tuesday. He also just snuck into match play on the number, earning the No. 52 seed in a 14-for-13 playoff late Sunday afternoon.
Against the decorated McCoy, who was a member of the 2015 USA Walker Cup Team, Knapp took a 2-up lead at the turn when McCoy three-putted from the front fringe. This came after Knapp missed a short putt on the par-3 seventh to go 2 up and got up and down for birdie from the front of the green to halve the par-5 eighth hole. The next six holes were halved before McCoy converted a 9-foot eagle putt on No. 16.
One hole later, Knapp made a 12-footer on the par-4 17th for birdie and then watched McCoy miss from inside 10 feet to close out the match.
“It’s just been miracle after miracle,” said Knapp of his week, which included matches against three USGA champions (Jack Larkin, Hanzel and McCoy), the 2015 Senior Amateur runner-up (Tom Brandes) and one of the more decorated Californians (Jeff Burda). “I [probably] shouldn’t [have] made it into match play. I make it into match play, I’m getting everybody’s best and they’re all talented.”
Wilson squared the match against Lutz with birdies on Nos. 5 and 8, the latter coming when Lutz lipped out a 3-footer for birdie to halve the hole. Wilson then added birdies on both par 5s on the inward nine (13 and 16) before halving the par-4 17th to earn the victory.
Earlier on Wednesday, Lutz made a 12-foot par putt on the 18th hole to edge Craig Davis, 56, of Chula Vista, Calif., 1 up. McCoy ousted Jerry Rose, 59, of Sarasota, Fla., 3 and 2.
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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