Sean Knapp finally made it past the semifinal round at a USGA event, and he took full advantage.
Knapp closed out Paul Simson, 2 and 1, Thursday at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis to capture the 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur. The 55-year-old had previously reached the semifinals at the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2008 and 2010, but he’d never reached beyond that in a USGA event.
That changed when Knapp, competing in his first U.S. Senior Amateur, posted a 1-up win over Dave Ryan in Wednesday’s semifinal. Knapp, of Oakmont, Pa., lost the first hole in Thursday’s final and was 1 down through nine, but he captured the 10th and 11th to snatch away the lead. Simson, of Raleigh, N.C., won the 13th to square the match, but Knapp proceeded to take Nos. 14 and 16 to go dormie.
A 20-footer for par at No. 17 halved that hole and sealed Knapp the win. He did it without a birdie in the final, but the trophy remains his.
“I’ve got this big thing over there that says W. I don’t care how it looks or what it is,” Knapp said. “If you’re making double bogey, I’m going to make bogey. If you’re making par, I’m going to try to make birdie.”
He did it, too, defeating a two-time champion. The U.S. Senior Amateur, for those 55 years or older, has been a cozy spot for Simson, who captured the event in 2010 and ’12.
The 66-year-old has also won the British and Canadian Senior Amateurs. Still, this loss means he falls short in his attempt to join Lewis Oehmig as the only three-time winners of the event.
Knapp noted Thursday was the calmest he’d been in any match all week. He gave a nod to best friend and legendary mid-amateur Nathan Smith in the aftermath of his victory on that point.
“Nathan and I have played so much against each other and with each other,” Knapp said. “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.”