Ramirez downs Holtgrieve at Senior Amateur

Jim Holtgrieve lost to Gerardo Ramirez Tuesday at the USGA Senior Amateur.

Jim Holtgrieve lost to Gerardo Ramirez Tuesday at the USGA Senior Amateur.

WEST CALDWELL, N.J. – Gerardo Ramirez, known to his friends as Harry, was probably the happiest golfer in New Jersey after scoring a 2-and-1 victory over medalist Jim Holtgrieve, the U.S. Walker Cup captain, in the second round of the USGA Senior Amateur.

Ramirez, sitting in the locker room at Mountain Ridge Country Club, looked up at the ceiling as if to thank the lord of birdies. “Wow, what a match," he said. "What a great match.”

After 10 holes, Ramirez was 3 down. He won five of the next seven holes against a man who shot 68-68 in qualifying and then romped, 4 and 3, over Pat Tallent of Vienna, Va., in the opening round of match play.

Ramirez, who lives in San Antonio, owns a company that sells high-end data cable. “There are 105 people in our family,” he said. “That’s just me and my brothers and sisters and all the kids and grandkids.”

In the locker room, he probably called all 105 of them on his cellphone. He even had time to receive a call from former touring pro Frank Conner, known as one of two men to play in the U.S. Open in golf and tennis (Ellsworth Vines was the other).

“I am very happy,” Ramirez said.

Not so happy was Holtgrieve, a St. Louis resident. “I just made a bunch of mistakes coming in,” he said. “As well as I hit the ball the last few days, it didn’t happen today.

“In all the matches I’ve played in all my life, you always have to get by one match when you don’t hit it that good – and I didn’t get by it. Harry kept the ball in play, and he played smart when he knew I was having some trouble.”

Holtgrieve's biggest mistake came at the par-4 No. 11. He was 3 up and faced a 92-yard wedge shot to the flagstick. His ball landed 5 feet to the right of the hole and rolled down a huge slope into what is called “No Man’s Land” by local golfers. With his ball in a divot, Holtgrieve attempted to putt the ball up the embankment.

Up it went and then down it came back. He lost No. 11 to a par by Ramirez, and it was the beginning of a Boot Hill stretch for Holtgrieve. He also lost Nos. 13, 14, 15 and 17.

“I walked off the 11th green,” Holtgrieve said, “and I said to myself, That was a big, big mistake. All I had to do was get the ball out of the hole, and I didn’t do it.”

Holtgrieve wasn’t making excuses, but his hands were killing him. In 2010, he had carpal tunnel surgery on both hands. Looking back, he thinks perhaps he started playing too quickly after the surgery.

“This one (his left hand) doesn’t feel good at all,” he said. “That's not an excuse, because I just hit bad shots. But my bad shots today were snap hooks. On No. 9, I’ll bet the ball didn’t go 200 yards (off the tee). I just wasn’t able to continue through it (the shot). My hands hurt, but that’s not the reason I lost. Harry just beat me fair and square.”

Holtgrieve played the entire championship with a 10-finger grip rather than his normal overlapping grip.

“I just couldn’t hold on (to the club) with an overlapping or interlocking grip,” he said, “so I went the 10-finger grip. It’s golf. You do what you have to do.”

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