Top seed, 2 former champions among US Senior Amateur Final 8
The winds picked up Tuesday at the Kittansett Club in Marion, Massachusetts, as did the drama of the 67th United States Senior Amateur Championship. Of the 24 games played in rounds 32 and 16 on a day when gusts were measured in the high 20s, 13 went the distance, with six requiring extra holes to decide the outcome. When dusk finally arrived on the shores of scenic Buzzards Bay, two former American senior amateur champions – Bob Royak (2019) and Doug Hanzel (2013) – were among eight to advance to the quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, 2021 quarter-finalist Rusty Strawn, 59, of McDonough, Georgia, ended the run of 71-year-old two-time champion Paul Simson, of Raleigh, North Carolina, in a thriller of 19 holes. Simson wanted to become the oldest quarter-finalist in 35 years.
Canadian-born and top-seeded co-medallist Miles McConnell, 56, of Tampa, Fla., who was virtually knocked out in his first-round match on Monday before miraculously rallying to beat 2021 finalist Jerry Gunthorpe , picked up two more victories on Tuesday to reach his first USGA quarterfinal since losing to eventual champion Billy Mayfair in the 1987 US Amateur at Jupiter Hills Golf Club in Tequesta, Fla.
Joining McConnell, Strawn and the aforementioned senior amateur champions in the final eight are Roger Newsom, 58, of Virginia Beach, Va.; Stephen Jensen of England; Jeff Frazier, 57, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania; and Jon Brown, 55, of Adel, Iowa, the youngest player in the field this year.
Brown, who became age eligible the day before the championship, beat John Adams of San Clemente, Calif., in 25 holes, tying the second-longest game in championship history. There have been three more 25 holes, the last 12 years at Lake Nona when Rick Woulfe won. It was two holes away from the longest match, a 27-hole win by Egon F. Quittner in 1963 at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Georgia.
Related: Georgia in my head in Kittansett
Brown converted a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 25th, Kittansett’s seventh, to end the game shortly before dark.
McConnell, a University of South Florida graduate and 2021 Florida State Golf Association Senior Player of the Year, knocked out former PGA Tour player Lee Porter, of Greensboro, North Carolina, 2-and-1, in round of 16. Porter, the runner-up in this year’s British Senior Amateur, was reinstated in May after an 18-year hiatus from competitive golf.
“I played badly this morning [against Bryan Waters], but I managed to score decently and win that game,” said McConnell, who owns and operates restaurants. “This afternoon, I was finally hitting the ball better. I had my swing coach and best friend, Thad Coontz, here. He flew away this morning, with my wife (Bea). And it was great to have their support. Thad helped me between rounds, just a few pointers. He knows my swing very well.
Strawn, a senior insurance executive who won this year’s Trans-Mississippi Senior, came from a 2-try deficit to Simson after 12 holes by winning numbers 14, 15 and 16 to take a 1-1 lead. Then he and Simson, the owner of 44 Carolinas Golf Association titles, shockingly posted match-matching triple 7 bogeys on the 17th hole; Simson put the skull in a greenside bunker shot out of bounds after Strawn’s approach flew long and down the road. Simson bounced back and coldly converted an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18 to force extra holes, only to hit a bad drive on the No. 19 that led to a bogey. Strawn two putts from 35 feet to advance.
“Obviously Paul is a legend in amateur golf and to have the opportunity to play against him is an honour,” said Strawn, who lost to Gunthorpe in the quarter-finals a year ago. “I don’t think any of us have had their best games. To make two 30-40 foot putts in these windy conditions, I think is more difficult than making an 8 or 10 foot putt. I was very proud of my lag putting.
Royak and Newsom will have a rematch of their thrilling 2019 final at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, North Carolina, won by the first-place finisher. Royak qualified for the quarters by winning four straight holes from the No. 13 to defeat 2016 finalist Matt Sughrue of Arlington, Va. 3 and 2. That streak included three straight birdies and a par on the 16th hole which ended the game. .
“My game is in very good shape,” Royak said. “I almost put extra pressure on myself because I played well when I got here. So if I keep this level of play, I think I can win every game. If I don’t give any holes, just play my game, I should be able to survive.
Newsom, an eye surgeon, knocked out Mitch Wilson, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, by the same margin of 3 and 2.
Hanzel, 65, of Savannah, Georgia, continued his Houdini act in this championship. On Monday, the retired doctor who has type 1 diabetes, recovered from a 4-try deficit with eight to play to pass Rupert Kellock. In the round of 16, he edged 2017 champion Sean Knapp of Oakmont, Pa., by two holes with four to play, then took the numbers 15, 17 and 18 to claim a 1-up win. Hanzel, the only golfer in USGA history to play matches in the US Amateur, US Mid-Amateur and US Senior Amateur in the same year (2012), birdied the 15th and 18th hole par-5.
It was Hanzel and Knapp’s third meeting in the U.S. senior amateur; Knapp won in 2017 (round of 16) and 2018 (quarterfinals) when Knapp lost the title match to Jeff Wilson.
Jensen, looking to become the first Englishman to win this title, knocked out 2013 USA Mid-Amateur Champion and 2023 USA Walker Cup captain Michael McCoy. The 56-year-old won numbers 11-13 to take a lead of 2 and closed out the 2022 British Senior Amateur Champion with winning pars at 16 and 17.
Frazier has a shot at becoming the championship’s first left-handed champion with a 22-hole win over Wayne Fredrick in the round of 32 and a 2-and-1 win over Canada’s Peter Detemple in the round of 16. He opened a close match with a par winner on No. 16 and a bogey winner on 17.
The quarter-final and semi-final matches will take place on Wednesday, starting at 7:30 a.m. EDT. Semi-final matches are scheduled for 1:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Thursday’s 18-hole championship match begins at 8:30 a.m.
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