USGA Senior Amateur History

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O. Gordon Brewer Jr. of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., won three of the final six holes at Taconic Golf Club, to claim his second USGA Senior Amateur title, 2 up, over Heyward Sullivan of Greenville, S.C.

The 57-year-old Brewer, who also won in 1994, moved to a 2-up advantage over Sullivan, a recent heart surgery patient, with wins on holes 13 and 14. Sullivan won the next hole but Brewer closed the match by winning the par-5 18th with a par.

"When I had two putts from 15 feet away and straight up the hill for the win, it sinks in," said Brewer. "You know you've done something special. Maybe it proves that the first time wasn't a fluke."

The vice-president of a Philadelphia-area office supplies company, Brewer finished a combined two-under for the match-play portion of the championship. He was the equivalent of one-over-par versus Sullivan. In contrast, he had a 12-over-par 154 in 36 holes of stroke play qualifying and barely made the cut of 64 players for match play, which came at 155.

Sullivan, 59, jumped on top by winning the first hole with a birdie 4. It was the first and only time Brewer had trailed in his six matches. But it didn't last very long. Brewer was again on top after wins at holes 4 and 7. Sullivan, however, just kept coming back.

He squared the match with a winning par 3 on the ninth hole. And after Brewer sank a breaking 35-foot birdie to win the par 5 10th, Sullivan took the 12th. That set up the dramatic final six holes, with Brewer 1 up coming to the 18th.

Overall, however, it was a quite a week for Sullivan, who underwent a heart angioplasty two weeks before the championship and had not played a round of golf since qualifying for this championship four weeks before.

"I've been on the edge the whole time, said Sullivan, a jeweler who survived a playoff at 13-over-par 155 to reach match play. "I didn't think two or three weeks ago that I would even be here."

"I probably putted better this week than I know how," continued Sullivan. "And I played as well around the greens as I am capable."

Brewer defeated 57-year-old Fred Rowland of Leawood, Kan., the 1995 Kansas Senior Amateur champ, in his semi-final match, 4 and 3. Sullivan lost his lead and then recovered to beat 1996 British Senior Open Amateur champion Joel Hirsch, 55, of Chicago, Ill., by sinking a downhill 15-footer for birdie on the first extra hole. Hirsch was bidding to become the first ever to win the British and U.S. national senior titles.

At his best in USGA championships, Brewer was the 1985 U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up and a semi-finalist in the 1981 and 1984 Mid-Amateur.

Sullivan, the 1967 South Carolina Amateur champion, had not played competitive golf for most of the last 20 years.

The medalist was 56-year-old Bob Wernick of Rancho Mirage, Calif., who shot 1-under-par 68-73-141, although he had played competitive golf for just over a year. His total was two strokes better than that of Clark MacKenzie, 56, of Lutherville, Md., the son of three-time U.S. Walker Cup player Roland MacKenzie.

Defending champion James Stahl, 57, of Cincinnati, Ohio, lost in the second round of match play, in a 19-hole match. Stahl was one of two contestants who had played in the Junior Amateur at Taconic G.C., 40 years ago.

William Ploeger of Columbus, Ga., had a hole-in-one on the 14th hole during the first day of stroke play, matching the feat of Jack Nicklaus, who scored a hole-in-one there while playing in the 1956 Junior Amateur.

Each of the semi-finalists are exempt in the 1997 U.S. Senior Open. And the winner also received exemptions for the next U.S. Open and U.S. Amateur, as well as the next five Senior Amateurs. The USGA accepted 2,131 entries for the championship, the second most in the event's 42-year history.