15 USGA champions with 15 amazing journeys competed in the Celebration of Champions at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club prior to the 2017 U.S Open Championship.

Knapp competes in Celebration of Champions
By Mike Dudurich • May 29, 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.

Call it the win that keeps on giving.

When Sean Knapp won the U.S. Senior Amateur last August in his first national senior event, he knew there would be perks that went with that title.

Things like a 10-year exemption into the U.S. Senior Amateur, two-year exemption into the U.S. Amateur, three years into the U.S. Mid-Am and two years into the U.S. Senior Open.

What he didn’t know – because it hadn’t been announced when he won – was that he would become part of U.S. Open week at Shinnecock Hills, even he wasn’t playing in the Open.

The Celebration of Champions debuted Tuesday, a four-hole alternate-shot exhibition honoring the winners of the 2017 USGA Championships. Two-person teams competed in the fun event and then attended a special dinner that evening in the historic Shinnecock Hills clubhouse.

“They treated us like royalty,” Knapp said. “We had access to everywhere. I got to the course in the morning and just walked around. I was standing next to the putting green, the chipping area, watching Phil (Mickelson) hit shots, watching Zach Johnson drain 20-footers. But that was just the beginning.”

The Champions event started at 4:30 and he and partner Noah Goodwin, the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion, had a tough go of it, making a triple-bogey on the first hole. But it wasn’t about score necessarily, rather putting on a show for the crowds that followed the groups as well as the national television audience.

Jack Nicklaus was the official starter and greeted and watched each player as they hit their opening shots. Among the competitors was Kenny Perry, the reigning U.S. Senior Open champion.

“It was a unique situation, a very special day,” Knapp said. “I sat with Mike Davis (USGA Executive Director) at dinner. It’s pretty hard to describe just how great the day was.”

After dinner, Knapp set out for a trip west that would eventually finish in Johnstown. But after being on the road for a half-hour, it was realized his clubs hadn’t been joined his luggage in the trunk and a U-turn was made to retrieve them and start again.

A brief stop in Bloomsburg for a three or four-hour rest that passed as overnight then gave way to another few hours to Sunnehanna Country Club for the first round of the Sunnehanna Amateur. A two-hour delay to the start of the first round gave him an opportunity for a bit of extra rest.

“This day is a part of the USGA’s effort to illuminate its champions. The USGA is doing things to enhance the golf tournament and enhance their brand,” Knapp said. “It’s great they had us and really I’m taking aback by the whole thing.”

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.