Sean Knapp tees off on No. 18 at Sunnehanna CC (AGC photo)
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – When the day ended at Sunnehanna Country Club, the last six players to come off the course scattered like quail. An ill-timed pop-up storm drove the final groups off the course in a weather delay with roughly a hole left to play in the second round. The lightning lifted but the rain didn’t, causing a haphazard finish to the day for some players.
The rain came and went throughout the second round of the Sunnehanna. That’s the nature of summer golf.
“Today was tricky. The wind was howling and the greens were super fast so a lot of the putts got blown off line,” said James Nicholas, a recent Yale graduate who followed an opening 66 with a second-round 72 at the par-70 Sunnehanna track.
Nicholas went from one off the lead to three off the lead. They’ll all be chasing Spencer Soosman in the third round after the rising Texas senior went 2 under on Thursday to get to 5 under for the tournament.
Soosman, who appeared in the Longhorns’ championship lineup, made two bogeys on Thursday, and they remain his only two of the tournament.
• • •
WALKING HISTORY LESSON:
The hallways of the Sunnehanna clubhouse are lined with tournament memorabilia – from photos and newspaper clippings of a 15-year-old Jack Nicklaus in his Sunnehanna debut to many modern-day winners of this event that have gone on to PGA Tour careers.
Sean Knapp has had a front seat to all that. Knapp, the 57-year-old who won the 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur, has played alongside those Tour players as they’ve come up through amateur golf. This is the 28th time he has played the Sunnehanna. He always makes room for it on his competition calendar. It’s a historic event with one of the best amateur fields assembled all year.
“The laundry list is too many and too great to go through it, but it’s a who’s who of amateur golf,” he said.
And for Knapp, who lives down the road in Oakmont, Pa., it’s home.
Knapp is T-90 after back-to-back rounds of 75. This is a place where local knowledge comes into play, and that serves him well, particularly on the greens.
“Everything is so subtle that it’s very difficult. Everything all the way down,” he said. “As far as the kids can hit it, they can diminish a lot of that local knowledge. When somebody is 60 yards by you consistently and they’re hitting wedge, it doesn’t matter how much knowledge I have.”
• • •
IT’S ALL IN THE GRIP:
Justin Tereshko was recently married. During a tournament, however, he only wears the wedding ring at the end of the day – when he signs his scorecard.
“I just can’t get used to it holding the club with it,” said Tereshko, who is not only a player but the assistant men’s golf coach at Louisville.
Tereshko has a self-described unorthodox grip where only two fingers of his right hand touch the club. In wet conditions, Tereshko sometimes struggles to hold onto the club, but with his dad Bill caddying for him, it was a team effort to keep the grips dry on Thursday.
“This was actually probably one of the best rounds I’ve ever played in the rain,” he said. His second-round 71 moved him up 20 spots up the leaderboard to a tie for 62nd.
Tereshko, at age 29, is older than many of the college players in the field. His strength is in his consistency. This being his first year playing the Sunnehanna (he played the Monroe Invitational a year ago, a tournament that shares this date), he learned a thing or two about what makes this Donald Ross layout so tricky.
In a word: the greens. To his credit, Tereshko’s two birdies on Thursday were off 50-foot putts on the par 3s.
“I hit the first 17 greens and was 1 over through 17,” Tereshko said. “The green complexes here are massive and if you don’t put it in the exact spot, I can definitely see how local knowledge comes into play.”
• • •
: Defending champion Alex Smalley, a recent Duke graduate, remains in the running through 36 holes. After rounds of 68-70, Smalley is 2 under and three shots off the lead. . . . Tough day for first-round leader Lachlan Barker. The Australian had a double-bogey on his second hole and four consecutive bogeys from Nos. 5-8 before his only birdie at No. 9. After three more bogeys on the back, Barker ended up with a second-round 78, 13 shots worse than his opening 65. . . . How do you pass the time with your friends on the summer amateur circuit? You play the ultimate putting competition on the ultimate kind of greens: Donald Ross greens. See below.
ABOUT THE Sunnehanna Amateur
The Sunnehanna Amateur was inaugurated in
1954 -- it was the first country club
sponsored 72-hole stroke play competition for
in the United States. The
tournament is played on a classic A.W.
design. Only one other amateur
tournament in the United States can list the
Chick Evans, Arnold Palmer, Julius
Boros, Art Wall, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson,
Woods, and Rickie Fowler as
contestants: the United States Amateur. Its
format has been emulated by
countless amateur tournaments across the
View Complete Tournament Information