Bob Beck accepts his trophy (Pennsylvania Golf Association photo)
Sean Knapp’s resume speaks for itself. The USGA champion is also an eight-time Western Pennsylvania Amateur, and that’s just scratching the surface.
Despite all that, Bob Beck managed to take down the Pennsylvania legend on Thursday in the championship match of the Pennsylvania Senior Match Play presented by LECOM. Beck played brilliantly throughout the day to top Knapp, 2 up, and win the championship at Allegheny Country Club.
"It was very unexpected," Beck said of his victory. "I just tried to make a few putts today. I got a lot of breaks to go my way."
Beck fell behind early as Knapp birdied the first hole. Facing a possible two-hole deficit after Knapp made birdie on the second, Beck stepped up and made a birdie of his own to halve the hole. He then won the third, fifth and sixth holes to move 2 up. Knapp came back with a birdie on the seventh to move to within one. Then on the par-3 eighth, Beck's tee shot was just off the green and he was looking at a tough shot over the slope to the pin. As he said, the golf gods were on his side today, as the putt meandered over the slope and into the hole for the birdie to put the lead back at two holes.
"Yeah, that one was luck," Beck said. "I was just trying to get it close there."
The two competitors split the next two holes, with Knapp taking the ninth but Beck coming back with a par to win the 10th. Knapp once again closed the gap with a birdie on 14, putting the former U.S. Senior Amateur champ just one hole back with four to go.
One hole later, the match was all square, as Beck three-putted the 15th. After both men made 5 on the 16th, the match moved to the final two holes.
On 17, both golfers hit it down the middle off the tee. The approach shots for each player resulted in a pair of downhill putts with the match still all square. Beck's putt ended up about five feet short, while Knapp's ended up a little over two feet past the hole. Beck came back and sank the par putt, and after Knapp's putt just missed, Beck headed to the 18th with a 1-up lead.
The 18th hole saw each golfer with a fine drive, and Knapp's approach shot ended up safely on the green about 20 feet away. With the pressure on, Beck hit a wedge to five feet. Knapp, knowing he needed to make the putt to have a chance to extend the match, made an aggressive attempt that barely missed, and with that, he conceded Beck's birdie putt, giving Beck the 2-up victory.
"The golf course was great and I'm thrilled to win this event," Beck said.
In the super senior division, defending champion Don Donatoni held off a challenge from Paul Schlachter to capture the title.
Donatoni was impressively able to follow up on his semifinal win that took 23 holes with a 2-up victory over Schlachter in the championship round.
"I mustered up just enough energy to win that match," Donatoni said.
Knowing he was facing one of the few super-seniors in the commonwealth with a resume to match him, Donatoni was ready for the challenge.
"Paul is a tremendous person and a great talent," Donatoni said. "Match play is so unpredictable, and you just have to take it one shot at a time. It's just so wonderful to win and to be able to defend after winning last year."
ABOUT THE Pennsylvania Senior Match Play
Invitation only event consisting of the top 15 players
on the Pennsylvania Golf Association Senior
Player of the Year standings and the club champion
the host club. Format is a round of 16 match play.
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