(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) - David Brown, of Ligonier, Pa., posted a 2-under-par round of 70 on Sunday for a 6-under total of 138 to earn medalist honors in the 63rd U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at The Minikahda Club. Brown, 56, who is competing in his first U.S. Senior Amateur, topped a trio of players by two strokes to earn the No. 1 seed for match play, which begins on Monday with 64 players.
“I’ve been to a lot of USGA events and I’ve been much better prepared and not made match play,” said Brown, who has only qualified for match play once before in a USGA championship, the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur, where he reached the Round of 16. “I’m just fortunate that I made some great putts and I had some good breaks.”
The U.S. Senior Amateur is one of 13 annual national championships conducted by the USGA, 10 of which are strictly for amateurs. The championship is open to amateurs at least 55 years of age with a Handicap Index® not exceeding 7.4. It consists of two rounds of stroke play, after which the field is cut to the low 64 scorers for match play, which concludes with an 18-hole final on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. CDT.
Brown failed to qualify for this championship in 2016, his first year of eligibility. He made 11 birdies over his two tours of Minikahda, which has hosted five previous USGA championships, including the 1916 U.S. Open and the 1927 U.S. Amateur. Three players finished two strokes behind Brown, including Matthew Sughrue, of Arlington, Va., the runner-up in the 2016 championship to Dave Ryan, of Taylorville, Ill.
Sughrue, who shot rounds of 68-72, was joined by Chuck Palmer, of Dallas, Texas, and Mitch Wilson, of Kalamazoo, Mich., both of whom shot 72-68. Ryan was one stroke farther back, along with Tim Jackson, of Germantown, Tenn., the 1994 and 2001 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, who has gotten to the semifinal round of this championship the past two years.
“I was a little apprehensive about not making match play,” admitted 2016 champion Ryan, who shot 73-69. “It puts a lot of pressure on you. But I got through that. I was shooting to the middle of greens, playing conservative. I was trying to par every hole, and I made some birdies along the way.”
Two-time champion Paul Simson (2010 and 2012) was another stroke back at 1-under 143, while two more champions – Doug Hanzel (2013) and Chip Lutz (2015) – were in a group of four players at even-par 144.
Seven players broke 70 on Sunday, compared to two in Saturday’s first round. Among them was David Nocar, of Millersville, Md., who improved on Sunday’sround by eight strokes (77-69) to tie for 13th place at 2-over 146.
“As poorly as I played yesterday, I played good today,” said Nocar, who has won his club championship 19 times. “The third hole, par 3, I hit an iron shot in there about 5 feet and the swing just felt really good. It was the first solid swing I felt like I’d had all day, and that really carried through to the rest of the round.”
No. 1 seed Brown now awaits his Round-of-64 opponent from the morning playoff, but knows that match play is a different game, having defeated the co-medalist (Bill Sharp) as the No. 63 player in the 2002 Mid-Amateur at The Stanwich Club, in Greenwich, Conn.
“I know [being medalist] doesn’t mean anything for match play because there’s going to be 64 players and 32 are going to go home disappointed,” said Brown, who lost to five-time USGA champion Nathan Smith in the Pennsylvania match-play final last month. “It’s a strange game, a fun game. I really enjoy match play, especially on a course like this, with the menacing greens. The hole’s not over until someone puts it in the bottom of the cup.”
George “Buddy” Marucci Jr. (2008) and Patrick Tallent (2014) rounded out the six champions who advanced to match play, posting 36-hole scores of 7-over 151 and 6-over 150, respectively.
Stewart “Buddy” Alexander, the 1986 U.S. Amateur champion, was among the players to miss the 36-hole cut, shooting 9-over 153 to miss the playoff by one stroke.