Mark Knecht went low at the CC of Charleston (CCofC photo)
CHARLESTON, S.C. (Sept. 28, 2018) – Mark Knecht held on to win the Senior Azalea on Friday, and he did it wire-to-wire. After opening with rounds of 66-68 at Charleston Country Club, Knecht closed out the tournament with a final-round 1-under 70.
Knecht had a few more bogeys in his final-round effort. He bogeyed two of his opening three holes and also Nos. 17 and 18. But it was still enough for the 55-year-old to easily win the title. Knecht finished the event at 9 under, four shots ahead of runner-up Scott Mayne.
Defending champion Brady Exber, who won the Canadian Senior Amateur earlier this month, finished third at 2 under. Exber opened the tournament with a 2-under 69 to trail Knecht by three shots after the opening round. It was as close as he could get for the week, though.
Frank Ford, a Charleston local, was fourth while Nick Lambos rounded out the top 5.
In the super senior division, John Dennis used a final-round 69 to pull out of a tie with Paul Schlachter and win outright at 3 under.
Mark Knecht maintained his lead but increased the size of it Thursday at the Senior Azalea. After opening with 5-under 66 at the Country Club of Charleston, Knecht followed with a 68 on Thursday. It left him four shots ahead of the field entering the final round of the championship.
Knecht had four birdies in his round on Thursday, and three of them came in the final five holes.
Brady Exber, Knecht’s closest pursuer, had a second-round 2-under 69. After starting with a bogey and adding another one at the par-3 sixth, Exber finished with four birdies from No. 9 on.
Exber won this event four consecutive times from 2011-2014. The tournament has been cancelled two of the three years since thanks to hurricanes.
Rick Rebholz is third at 2-under 140 after back-to-back rounds of 70. Frank Ford III, a noteworthy local player, and Rusty Strawn are tied for fourth another shot back. Ford III, the general chairman of the 2013 Women’s Amateur at Charleston Country Club, has claimed a record six Azalea Invitationals, but never a Senior Azalea.
In the super senior division, John Dennis and Paul Schlachter are tied for the lead after matching rounds of 68-73 to start the tournament.
Mark Knecht (Paducah, Ky.) shot a 5-under 66 to take the first-round lead at the Senior Azalea Invitational at Charleston Country Club, site of next year’s U.S. Women’s Open.
Knecht got rolling early with four birdies in a row starting at the second hole. After a bogey at the devilish par-3 11th, he added two more birdies in the next three holes, then parred in.
He leads by three shots over four-time champion Brady Exber (Las Vegas, Nev.), who overcame bogeys on the first two holes to shoot a 2-under 69. Exber won four straight Senior Azaleas from 2011-2014.
There is plenty of company on the leaderboard, with five players at 1-under 70, four more at even-par 71, and nine more at 1-over 72.
In the Super Senior division, two players are tied for the lead at 3 under. John Dennis and Paul Schlachter each had a 68 on Wednesday.
Dennis, of Greenville, S.C., had four birdies and just a single birdie at the par-4 fifth. Schlachter, meanwhile, started his day with a birdie at the first hole, then followed immediately with a bogey. He threw in four more birdies and a bogey to finish his day. Schlachter is a 69-year-old Pittsburgh, Pa., resident who has played 10 USGA championships and won the West Penn Golf Association’s Senior Player of the Year 11 times.
Three players trail by two shots at 1-under 70. That group includes Bob Currey, George Walker and Robert Shelton. David Crocker and Frank Perry are tied for sixth at even par.
Last year’s Senior Azalea Invitational was cancelled due to effects from Hurricane Irma.