Jeff Wilson (facing) shakes hands with Sean Knapp (USGA photo)
EUGENE, Ore. (Aug. 30, 2018) – A USGA trophy is the universal criteria by which an amateur career is judged. Some players rack them up early in life, some do it late, and some spend an entire career searching for one. Jeff Wilson
, a 55-year-old amateur from Fairfield, Calif., now has one. He can no longer be called the best player to never win a USGA event – he’s a U.S. Senior Amateur champion.
Wilson has been chasing USGA titles for five decades – through junior, amateur, mid-amateur and now senior golf. This week at Eugene Country Club marked the sixth time he’s been a USGA medalist, and he 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). Thursday marked his first trip to a final
“How is this his first [USGA] win?” opponent Sean Knapp
joked after the match. “Anybody that’s played amateur golf at a high level has known Jeff Wilson. He’s a superstar. You did not see a senior golfer out there. You saw one of the best amateur golfers in the country.”
It’s a familiar storyline for Knapp, because it played out for in his favor last year when the Senior Amateur became his first USGA title after 41 years trying to join this exclusive club.
“I think Sean said it best [at the prize ceremony], it’s really hard to win one of these things,” said Wilson, the owner of a car dealership. “First you’ve got to get over yourself and then you have to beat the guy playing with you. And it’s difficult.
“I always thought I was good enough to be a USGA champion, but I never work put the work in. And that shows up when the matches are on the line. This year, I put the work in.”
Wilson also became the first medalist to win the Senior Amateur title in 31 years.
On Thursday, Wilson birdied the first hole to take an immediate lead. Knapp got it back to all square at the turn when Wilson bogeyed the par-4 ninth, but Wilson ultimately came out on top thanks in large part to birdies at Nos. 13 and 15. He went from 1 down to 2 up at Nos. 13-15 to ultimately seal the championship.
“Holes 4, 5, 6, 7, there was a stretch of holes in there on the front nine where I was pretty scrappy,” Wilson said. “I just tried to get myself to settle down and not think ahead and just keep hitting shots, and I played a pretty good back nine. I was 4 under for the last eight holes or something like that.”
As for Knapp, there will be plenty more opportunities. This is only his second time playing the U.S. Senior Amateur, and his all-time record in the event now stands at a remarkable 11-1.
“Well, I’m very thankful. I’m blessed, and this has been a year that’s been great. You know, I’m going to get to do some great things next year. Maybe not as many as Jeff will. But I don’t have any regrets. You know, sure, it’s a little painful. It hurts right now. I’m not happy and all that stuff. But at the end of the day, I just look at golf, and I’ve seen enough golf, and sometimes you lose and sometimes you’re beaten, and I was beaten today, and all the credit to Jeff again.”
Information from the USGA used in this report
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.
View Complete Tournament Information