Old Chatham (USGA photo)
Despite being one of the last men into the field, Dean Channell is at the top of the leaderboard after one round of the U.S. Senior Amateur. The Cary, N.C., native was the only man in the 155-player field to fire an opening round under 70 on Saturday at Old Chatham in Durham, N.C. That 4-under 68 gives him a two-shot cushion with one round of stroke play to go.
Earlier this month, the 59-year-old received the coveted phone call from the USGA that he was in the field. Living just 8 miles from the venue, Channell didn’t have to make extensive travel plans, and his familiarity with Old Chatham provided a confidence boost.
A steady rain fell on Saturday afternoon, but Channell, who played college tennis at Virginia Tech, still managed six birdies against two bogeys.
“You rather not play in these conditions,” said Channell, “and I am not a mudder. [But] it worked out.
“I really hit it good. I think I hit 15 greens so that makes a difference. I putted well. I hit a lot of shots that were close, so I gave myself a bunch of chances.”
Channell wasn’t the only alternate to find success on the first day of the championship. Greg Condon, 57, of Monte Vista, Colo., was the first alternate out of the Albuquerque (N.M.) Country Club qualifier. He is tied for second after a 2-under 70. Kory Forst is also on that number.
Condon’s 67 in Albuquerque, where only one spot was up for grabs, would have earned him medalist honors at all but four of the 49 sectional sites. Instead, he needed to survive a playoff to earn first-alternate status. Eleven days later, the USGA called to say he was in the championship for a third consecutive year.
Condon, who was co-medalist with eventual champion Jeff Wilson a year ago at this event, has his 27-year-old son Luke on the bag.
“It’s damp. It’s wet, but it’s cool compared to the practice rounds,” said Condon. “The golf course was great. Hats off to the superintendent (Brian Powell) and the people here who are letting us play in their playground.”
Defending champion Jeff Wilson, of Fairfield, Calif., made 17 pars and one bogey en route to a first-round 73. Wilson is vying to become the first back-to-back champion in 39 years. William C. Campbell won the title in 1979 and 1980.
Quotes and 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.
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