Knapp wins first Senior Amateur Championship
By Mike Dudurich • October 25, 2018
Mike is a freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich.
The 87th West Penn Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship became a casualty to the weather early in October when Allegheny Country Club became unplayable because of rain.
That necessitated the rescheduling of the event to Oct. 23 with the 36-hole, two-day championship becoming a 36-hole, one-day test of endurance and skill.
When the competitors arrived Tuesday, they were greeted by a sunny day, chilly temperatures, some strong, gusty winds and putting surfaces that were like glass.
And that’s when the fun began.
After a long, cold, difficult day, the WPGA’s remarkable senior put a cherry on top of a remarkable season with another spectacular victory.
Sean Knapp prevailed in a one-hole playoff over Ed Podufal of Erie in the fading sunset, winning the title in his first year of eligibility. From an even broader historical perspective, Knapp became the first player to hold the West Penn Amateur and West Penn Senior Amateur titles in the same year.
Considering he had only played a couple times in the month, Knapp’s rounds of 75-72 were a result of his skill level and experience. He jammed three fingers of his right hand into a door that led to swelling in that hand and then traumatic gout.
Being able to overcome that, the challenge of Ed Podufal of Erie and the difficult conditions no doubt made this one of his most significant victories.
“I have had the good fortune to compete at the highest levels,” Knapp said. “That kind of experience is always helpful, and it certainly was today.”
The long day of survival came down to the final few holes and featured some quirks that determined the outcome. Two-time defending champion David Brown of St. Clair Country Club was in the hunt for a three-peat until a mis-hit wedge from left of the 18th green that led to a double-bogey, ending his hopes.
Podufal showed throughout his final-round pairing with Knapp that he wasn’t overwhelmed by going head-to-head with an elite level player. A perfect example of that was the five consecutive one-putt greens he had to finish the round and force the playoff.
Fortunately for Knapp and Podufal, the playoff lasted just one hole. The fading light might have allowed another hole, if necessary, but it would have been difficult.
The two played the 17th in the playoff with Knapp bombing his drive down the middle and Podufal getting a big break when his drive down the right side skipped through a banker and into the rough. From there his approach shot checked up short of the green and the treacherous chip he was left with also came up short, leaving him 12-15 feet for par.
Knapp’s approach ran 24 feet past the pin. Playing eight feet of break, he carefully coaxed his putt above the pin and watched it slowly make its way toward the hole. It stopped within a foot of the hole and he tapped in for par, increasing the pressure on Podufal’s par putt.
He didn’t play nearly enough break, didn’t convert and Knapp added another trophy to his championship collection.
“It was a tough day. Erie conditions out there,” Podufal laughed. “It’s always fun to play against a player of Sean’s credentials. He got me early in the year in the Pennsylvania Senior Amateur Match Play, 2 & 1. I was hoping I could get him today, but it didn’t work out.”
Knapp won that Senior State Amateur, along with the West Penn Amateur and Senior Amateur, and finished as the runner-up in his defense of the USGA Senior Amateur, losing 2&1 to Jeff Wilson.
In the Super-Senior portion of the day, Don Erickson of Indiana Country registered a two-shot victory over Vince Zachetti of Hannastown Golf Club to claim the title.
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and 33,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund.