Knapp takes five-shot lead into final round of Senior Amateur • October 6, 2020
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.
SEWICKLEY – Sean Knapp got a very early indication of what kind of day it was going to be Tuesday at Sewickley Heights Golf Club.
On a brisk morning, Knapp drilled his approach shot on the long opening hole to two feet. An opening birdie in an event that he is the two-time defending champion would have provided a great jump start. Except that the almost-gimme didn’t disappear and he settled for par.
“I couldn’t believe it when I saw that,” Knapp said. “That certainly got my attention.”
As has been proven over the years, a focused Sean Knapp is never a good thing for the rest of the field. And as he stepped onto the 15th tee in the first round of the 89th West Penn Senior Amateur championship, Knapp was four-under par, a handful of shots ahead of his nearest competitor.
But he bogeyed three of his last four holes and, after reviewing his scorecard, he sat for a few minutes shaking his head after posting a 71. All of that came after he hit 17 of 18 greens on a SHGC layout that was nearly immaculate.
“I putted off the green twice and chipped off another one in those last four holes,” he said. “This course is so good. It’s hard and fast. The greens are running at over 15 something. It’s a great test.”
On the 10th, his approach shot stopped nine feet from the hole and. His birdie putt sailed six feet by and Knapp made it coming back. It was a similar situation on the 13th and on 17 he hit his approach shot 15 feet above the hole. When the ball stopped rolling, however, it was 15 yards off the front of the green. He three-putted 18 and said he could have putted off that green as well.
There were no dissenting opinions about any of what Knapp said. There were more scores in the 80s (22) than in the 70s (5). Only Knapp was under par.
And while the level of difficulty of Sewickley Heights was high Tuesday, if weather forecasts are to be believed, conditions could be even tougher in the final round. It’s expected to be a very windy day and gusts could reach as high as 25-30 miles per hour.
Knapp’s closest competitors are Ed Podufal of Erie at 76 and David Brown of St. Clair Country Club at 77. That will set up a final group of those three and will mark the umpteenth time Knapp and Brown have battled each other for a title.
“He’s going to have to have some hiccups with a five-shot lead,” said Brown, a long-time rival of Knapp’s. “You can’t give a guy like that a five-shot lead. Like today, I four-putted 18 and three-putted 15 and somehow managed to shoot 77. And if the conditions get any more difficult, we might not finish.”
Brown was laughing when he said that, but knows that a course this difficult is a very large task for a bunch of senior amateurs.
“This is a big event for us,” Knapp said. “I’ve played in two of them since I turned 55 and I look forward to it. But I also realize that as I guess closer to 60, it’s going to get more difficult to win. I’m looking forward the competition again tomorrow.”
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.