Jeff Wilson (USGA photo)
On a long day at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C., resumes didn’t matter much. Several men with decades of golf experience went down, but one marquee players remains in the mix: defending champion Jeff Wilson.
Wilson isn’t just the defending champion, he’s the last remaining USGA champion in the field. 12 men with that distinction began the week and five were still on the bracket on Tuesday morning. Wilson continues his quest to do something – defend the U.S. Senior Amateur title – that hasn’t been done in 39 years.
Wilson, 56, of Fairfield, Calif., defeated a past champion (Louis Lee) and a longtime California rival (Craig Steinberg) on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals of the 65th U.S. Senior Amateur. He didn’t need more than 15 holes in either match. The par-4 10th was pivotal in both matches, as he knocked wedge approaches inside 5 feet and converted the birdie both times.
Against Steinberg, he delivered a perfect 50-yard shot to within 18 inches on the par-5 11th hole.v
“I played a lot better today,” said Wilson. “It’s never easy, but I felt in a little more in control of my game today, so I was very happy.”
Wilson next faces Brady Exber, 63, of Las Vegas, Nev., who bounced 1986 U.S. Amateur champion Stewart (Buddy) Alexander, 66, of Auburn, Ala., 3 and 2. Earlier on Tuesday, Exber eliminated 2013 champion and co-medalist Doug Hanzel, 62, of Savannah, Ga., 1 up.
“For me to beat Doug Hanzel and Buddy Alexander on the same day, are you kidding me? This is a very special day for me, and I mean it with the highest regard,” said Exber, who has never advanced this far in 25 previous USGA championships. “I might not sleep tonight.”
Wilson will be the third straight USGA champion that Exber meets in match play.
“If you can’t keep beating the guys that have won this thing, what’s it worth,” he said.
One of the most notable men in that champion category to fall on Tuesday was Mike McCoy, the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion who fell at the hands of Roger Newsom in the afternoon round.
“I’m hitting fairways and greens,” said Newsom, who qualified for his second U.S. Senior Open earlier this year but missed the cut at Notre Dame’s Warren Course. “And after a while somebody is going to make a mistake.”
When you’ve been doing this as long as McCoy – and you’ve done it as successfully as he has – you learn to take away the positives even from a loss.
“Considering how low I have been to come out and play some good golf gives me hope that I can keep it going and maybe play well at the [U.S.] Mid-Am in a couple of weeks [in Colorado],” he said after his early exit. “I have had a few demons and I overcame a lot them this week. I actually played golf the way my eyes see it. This game is such a mental challenge. When you start playing bad you never think you are going to play good and I really didn’t think I would play good again. It was refreshing.”
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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