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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Knapp brings U.S. Senior Amateur crown home to western Pennsylvania

   He is pure Pittsburgh. Sean Knapp played hoops at IUP, but got hooked on golf as a looper at Oakmont Country Club.
   He quickly became one of western Pennsylvania’s top amateur players and remained that way year after year after year. It was the 55-year-old Knapp’s first crack at the U.S. Senior Amateur this week at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, but it was hardly his first rodeo in a United States Golf Association event.
   Knapp built a pretty nice record in those first 40 USGA events and learned to enjoy the camaraderie that comes from competing at the top level of amateur golf. And he gained all that experience. And when a  20-foot par putt disappeared into the hole Thursday, Knapp was a USGA champion.
   Knapp capped off a magical week in Minneapolis with a 2 and 1 victory in the scheduled 18-hole final over two-time Senior Amateur champion Paul Simson of Raleigh, N.C. The 66-year-old Simson had come into the final red-hot. He was just rolling people.
   Knapp was the picture of consistency all day, making 16 pars and a bogey. Six of those pars won holes. Knapp, you see, had learned about match play from one of the masters, his friend and western Pennsylvania amateur rival Nathan Smith, a four-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion and three-time member of the U.S. side in the Walker Cup Match.
   “Nathan and I have played so much against each other,” Knapp told the USGA website. “There’s a formula and I’m well aware of it. I can’t always execute it. He can. It’s about being patient, not giving holes, and forcing your opponent to get uncomfortable.
   “If you can force them into that level of uncomfortability, they might make poor decisions. I’m not saying that that’s what happened today, but certainly it kept my emotions at bay.”
   Knapp also said that the hard work was getting to the final and that the exemptions into the U.S. Senior Open and the U.S. Amateur in 2018 he earned by reaching the final also relaxed him. The three-year U.S. Senior Amateur exemption he earned by reaching the final turned into a 10-year exemption when he captured the title.
   Knapp battled to a 1-up victory over defending champion Dave Ryan of Taylorville, Ill. in the semifinals Wednesday afternoon. Earlier Wednesday he pulled out a 2 and 1 decision over David Nocar of Millersville Md., 2 and 1.
   Simson, meanwhile, cruised to a 5 and 4 win over Matt Sughrue, the 2016 Senior Amateur runnerup from Arlington, Va., in the quarterfinals and then took care of Frank Vana of Boxford, Mass, 5 and 3, in the semifinals.
   Three times Simson took the lead in the title match with a birdie and three times Knapp answered by evening the match.
   When Simson won the first with a birdie, Knapp won the second with a par. When Simson won the fourth with a birdie, Knapp got back to all square by winning the sixth with a par. Simson birdied the ninth, but when he three-putted the 10th and 11th holes, Knapp won those holes with pars to take a 1-up lead.
   Simson evened the match again when he won the 13th with a birdie, but Knapp got up and down for pars at 14 and 16 to take a 2-up lead with two holes to go.
   When Knapp got it up and down for par one more time on the 17th, it gave him the match and the title.
   He had lost in the semifinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2008 and 2010. He seemed particularly affected by a loss in the round of 16 in extra holes to 2012 to Smith, who went on to win the last of his four U.S. Mid-Amateur titles.
   When you play a lot of match play, you build up a lot of scar tissue. All those tough losses brought Knapp to the 17th green at The Minikahda Club Thursday with a putt to win the U.S. Senior Amateur. And the next time Knapp tees it up with Smith, Smith won’t be the only USGA champion in the group.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Dartmouth-bound Lees finishes second in AJGA's Junior Golf Hub at Saucon Valley

   Agnes Irwin senior Kaitlyn Lees has had a pretty good summer on the golf course.
   She capped it Wednesday with a runnerup finish in the American Junior Golf Association’s Junior Golf Hub Championship at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Weyhill Course. Lees fired an even-par 72 over the Weyhill Course, which measures 6,067 yards for the girls, to catch Cory Lopez of Mexico at 8-over 224, but the 15-yeaar-old Lopez defeated Lees in a sudden-death playoff to claim the title.
   Lees, who won the Inter-Ac League title for a second time last spring, had opened with rounds of 78 and 74 in Tuesday’s double round that had to be played in some tough conditions, including rain and temperatures in the chilly 60s.
   Lees had four birdies in her final-round 72. Lopez, who had posted rounds of 72 and 76 Tuesday, also had four birdies in a final-round 76.
   The Junior Golf Hub Championship is the successor to the PDQ / Philadelphia Runner Junior that has held this spot on the AJGA calendar for more than a decade. It was played at White Manor Country Club in the early years of its existence before moving to the Lehigh Valley in 2015.
   It’s been a frustrating summer at times for Lees, a Bryn Mawr resident who plays out of Philadelphia Country Club. Bidding for a third straight Pennsylvania Girls’ Junior Championship, she settled for a tie for fifth. She ended up as the first alternate at qualifiers for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship and the U.S. Women’s Amateur and never got the call to join either field.
   Off the course, the AJGA website reported Wednesday that Lees will continue her academic and golf pursuits at Dartmouth College. Two former Inter-Ac standouts, The Haverford School’s Scott Jaster and Episcopal Academy’s Sean Fahey, and Jamie Susanin, the leader on a Radnor team that captured the 2012 PIAA girls team title, wrapped up solid careers with the Big Green last spring.
   Yoona Kim of Fair Lawn, N.J. via South Korea was alone in third, two shots behind Lopez and Lees at 226. Kim had a final-round 75 after rounds of 76 and 75 Tuesday.
   Ami Gianchandani, the Pingry School senior from Wachtung, N.J. who reached the quarterfinals of this summer’s U.S. Girls’ Junior at Boone Valley Golf Club in Augusta, Mo., finished tied for 12th at Saucon Valley. Gianchandani had a final-round 80 after rounds of 78 and 81 Tuesday for a 240 total.
   Another Inter-Ac League individual champion was also in the field as Notre Dame senior Olivia Traynor finished 17th at 244. Traynor had a final-round 84 after rounds of 78 and 82 Tuesday.
Traynor, the 2015 Inter-Ac champion as a freshman, earned her spot in the field with an 80 in Monday’s qualifying round.
   On the boys side, Doug Ergood of Mount Laurel, N.J., fired a 4-under 68 over a Weyhill course that measured 6,980 yards for the guys, to claim a one-shot victory over Kyle Cardenas of Stafford, Va.
   Ergood, who teed it up earlier this summer in the U.S. Junior Amateur at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kan., had six birdies in his final round to finish with a 6-under 210 total. Ergood had opened up with a pair of 1-under 71s in Tuesday’s double round.
   He had to hold off a big run by Cardenas, who rattled off three straight birdies at 11, 12 and 13 in a final-round 70 that left him a 5-under 211. Cardenas had fired a 3-under 69 in the second round after matching par with a 72 in the opening round.
   Adam Xiao of Manhassat, N.Y. was another shot behind Cardenas at 4-under 212 after a final-round 71.
   Central York sophomore Carson Bacha, who took fifth in the PIAA Class AAA Championship as a freshman last fall, finished tied for 11th at 220. After opening with an 80, Bacha bounced back with a sizzling 4-under 68 before matching par in the final round with a 72.
   Bacha had a strong showing at this summer’s Boys Junior PGA Championship, finishing tied for 23rd at The Country Club of St. Albans’ Lewis & Clark Course in St. Albans, Mo.
   Malvern Prep junior John Updike finished tied for 21st at 227 after a final-round 79. Updike had opened with rounds of 75 and 73 Tuesday. Also in the group at 227 was Austin Barbin of Elkton, Md., who bounced back from an opening-round 82 with solid rounds of 72 and 73.
   Central Bucks East junior Patrick Sheehan capped a strong summer with a 2-under 70 in Wednesday’s final round to finish tied for 25th at 228. Sheehan had a pair of 79s in the first two rounds. Sheehan earned his spot in the field with a 2-under 70 in Monday’s qualifying round.
   Haverford School junior David Hurly of Newtown Square via South Africa finished tied for 31st at 229 after a final-round 77. Hurly opened up with rounds of 74 and 78 Tuesday.

Mayernik shoots 76 to earn Junior Tour victory at Medford Village

   Alex Mayernik of Columbus, N.J. had the low round of the day, a 4-over 76, to take top honors in the 16-to-18 division in a Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour stop Wednesday at Medford Village Country Club.
   Mayernik finished with a flourish, making a birdie on the 18th. Alec Ryden of Moorestown, N.J. was the runnerup with an 81.
   Shaun Glenn of Philadelphia and Nicholas Campanelli of Manhawkin, N.J. finished tied for third, each carding an 83 and Christopher D’Alessandro of Waretown, N.J. and  Stephen Eigenrauch of Moorestown, N.J. shared fifth place,  each posting an 85.
   Scott Warner of Shamong, N.J. finished seventh with an 86, Matthew Thomas of Mount Laurel, N.J. was eighth with an 89, Jerry Haftmann of Springfield was ninth with a 92 and Jeffrey Reilly Jr. of West Creek, N.J. rounded out the top 10 with a 96.
   Leo Brunk of Newtown had a birdie on each side while posting a 7-over 79 to claim the top spot in the 13-to-15 division. Carl Ernst of Mickleton, N.J. and Tavis Dix of Howell, N.J. shared second place, each carding an 80.
   Jack Tarzy of Medford, N.J. finished fourth with an 83, Saul Kosloff of Merion Station was fifth with an 84, Jack Ross of Medford Lakes, N.J. was sixth with an 85 and Kevin Deng of Devon and Jack Reid of Medford N.J. shared seventh at 89.
   Patrick Bottin of Bryn Mawr finished ninth with a 100 and Kian Canelos of Moorestown, N.J. rounded out the top 10 with a 103.
   Camille O’Halloran of Northfield, N.J. birdied the par-5 14th on her way to an 83 that gave her the win in the girls 16-to-18 division. Michelle Kim of Cherry Hill, N.J. was the runnerup with a 108.
Olivia Strigh of Hammonton, N.J. was the only entry in the 13-to-15 division and her 89 gave her her second victory of the young wrap-around 2017-’18 season.
   Sydney Yermish of Wynnewood birdied the par-5 third hole on her way to a 3-over 39 that bested the field of nine-holers. It’s been a pretty good week for Yermish, who topped the nine-holers Tuesday at Doylestown Country Club and played 18 holes Monday and won the girls 13-to-15 division at North Hills Country Club.
   Michael Dignazio of Wilmington, Del. was the runnerup to Yermish with a 45. The Gooneratne girls of Plymouth Meeting were at it again as Rhianna finished third with a 46 and Fiona was fifth with a 55. In between them was Luca Gherardi of Hammonton, N.J., who took fifth with a 53.
   Harrison Card of Moorestown, N.J. finished sixth with a 56, a couple of Philly guys, Joseph Mancini and Angelo Seravalli, finished seventh and eighth with respective scores of 65 and 71 and Kiley Alt of Washington Crossing was ninth with a 104.