Todd White (USGA Photo)
Another beautiful day greeted the competitors for the second and final round of stroke play in the 68th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Martis Camp Club. Weather-wise, the contestants could not have asked for better conditions – gentle breezes, temperatures barely reaching into the 70s with no humidity, and not a cloud in the sky.
The Tom Fazio-designed golf course, however, proved for a second consecutive day to be no pushover. The longest course in championship history – it measured 7,251 yards on Day 2 – yielded just two sub-par scores on Sunday, a day after just six players bettered the par of 72. This rough and adjusting to the altitude attributed to a scoring average of 78.8.
Medalist Todd White
, 55, of Spartanburg, S.C., didn’t break par either day, but a pair of even-par 72s were good enough to best a quartet of players by one stroke. It was the highest total by a medalist in the U.S. Senior Amateur since 2004 at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles.
The cut for match play came at 11-over 155 with 10 players having to return on Monday morning at 7:30 a.m. PDT for a playoff that will begin on the par-3 17th hole to determine the final six spots in the draw.
A pair of Senior Amateur runners-up from Virginia – Matt Sughrue (2016), of Arlington, and Roger Newsom (2019), of Virginia Beach – were in the group that finished at 1-over-par 145 that also included Randy Haag, of Orinda, Calif., and Steve Harwell, of Mooresville, N.C., who just missed an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 closing hole at Martis Camp that would have given him a share of medalist honors.
Bob Royak, of Alpharetta, Ga., the 2019 champion, was at 2-over 146 with Jon Brown, of Adel, Iowa, and Joe Jaspers, of Huntersville, N.C.
This was the first time White, a history teacher at Spartanburg High School, who captured the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball title with 2013 USA Walker Cup teammate Nathan Smith in 2015 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, had ever earned medalist honors in 35 USGA championship appearances, including nine U.S. Amateurs and eight U.S. Mid-Amateurs, where he was a semifinalist in 2012 at Conway Farms outside of Chicago.
Just a few days before arriving at Martis Camp, White qualified for next month’s U.S. Mid-Amateur
at Sleepy Hollow Country Club and stroke-play co-host Fenway Golf Club in Westchester (N.Y.) County. He also recently won the South Carolina Amateur
in a field that included several college players and high-quality mid-amateurs.
“This is very nice,” said White, who helped the 2013 Walker Cup Team to victory at National Golf Links. “It’s very satisfying.
“It’s nice to have won the medal in the stroke play. But everyone knows, this is two tournaments in one. Everyone starts with a clean slate tomorrow, so it really doesn’t matter what the number is beside your [match-play] seed. Just ask [four seed] Virginia when they played my [13th-seeded] Furman Paladins in basketball in the NCAA tournament [in March]. The number beside the name doesn’t matter.”
Coming off two bogeys on No. 12 and 13, White regrouped nicely by stuffing a gap wedge on the 145-yard, par-3 14th to 8 feet to set up a birdie. He then laced a 5-iron approach to the 546-yard, par-5 15th that led to routine two-putt birdie.
“From there it was just fairway, green and get it into the house,” said White. “I feel good. I’ve been playing well. The confidence is there. It’s just a matter of keeping everything in front of me and not getting too far ahead of myself, and playing golf the way that I have, really, for the last four weeks.”
Newsom, 59, a full-time ophthalmologist who performs up to 25 surgeries a week, had not been playing much golf this summer. He won the Coleman Senior at Seminole in the spring and was the runner-up to 2021 U.S. Senior Amateur champion Gene Elliott at the C.B. Macdonald Invitational at National Golf Links of America.
But after a slow start for the second consecutive day, Newsom played 3-under-par golf over his final 12 holes to post an even-par 72. Starting on No. 10, he birdied Nos. 16 and 17 and the par-5 fourth on Martis Camp’s outward nine.
“That’s just what USGA golf is, and if you let that kind of golf bother you, then you are in trouble,” said Newsom, who dropped a 1-down decision in the 2019 final to Royak at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C. “You just have to keep grinding.
“When I was a kid, I caddied for [two-time U.S. Open champion] Curtis Strange back in Virginia. And we used to joke that he could crush granite with his eyelids. That’s what I did.”
Fellow Virginian Sughrue, 63, a sports psychologist, arrived at Martis Camp fresh off losing, 1 down, in the title match of the Virginia State Senior Championship, which features two rounds of stroke play and a 32-player draw. He overcame a double-bogey 7 on the par-5 10th and a bogey on No. 11 to post a 74 to back up his 1-under 71 on Saturday.
“I started out with a three-putt on the first hole,” said Sughrue. “I had a long putt for my third shot and that’s not a good feeling. But I hit a really solid drive on two, which is a tough driving hole, and I felt really good about that. Then on three, I knocked it to about 5 feet and I made 2. And then I was off to the races.”
Harwell, 60, a quarterfinalist in 2019 and winner of this year’s North Carolina Senior Amateur, made two birdies and two bogeys over his first five holes and then was 1 over the rest of the round.
“It’s pretty long and I’m not that long of a hitter,” said Harwell of Martis Camp. “But it’s been good. Honestly, I’ve been hitting it good and not putting myself in a lot of difficult positions.”
Haag, one of the first-round co-leaders, couldn’t duplicate his seven-birdie performance from Saturday, but a 3-over 75 was more than good enough to qualify for match play. This is his eighth U.S. Senior Amateur, having advanced to match play in six of those appearances. On Sunday, The Olympic Club member could muster just one birdie against four bogeys, including a pair of 6s on par 5s.
“It was a sloppy round for me today,” said Haag, who has good friend and fellow Olympic member Brad Frederickson as his caddie. “My bogeys were sand wedges into the greens. Then I three-putted the par 5 on the back (15) for par and missed a 3-footer on 16 [for birdie]. You don’t make them all every day, but as I was thinking, you just have to get into match play. It’s [now] a whole new tournament.”