For Marucci, His Validation Finally Comes
By Art Stricklin
Fort Worth, Texas – For George “Buddy” Marucci it wasn’t a matter of vindication, only validation in winning the USGA Senior Amateur Championship Thursday, 2 up, over George Zahringer.
Under warm and sunny conditions at Shady Oaks Country Club, Marucci won his first-ever USGA national championship, 13 years after losing his only finals appearance to a precocious Tiger Woods in the 1995 U.S. Amateur.
“I’ve been playing against these guys all my life and to finally win one is amazing,” said Marucci. “I’m still in a bit of shock, it’s hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s wonderful.”
Playing at the historic private club home of golf legend Ben Hogan, Marucci brought his own redeeming history from his loss to Woods. Marucci led much of that match.
To further add to the validation theme, Marucci was supported by Trip Kuehne, who was in the gallery. Kuehne had won the 2007 U.S. Mid-Amateur title – yep - 13 years after he lost to Woods in the finals of the 1994 Amateur. Kuehne also had led most of that match.
“We have a small fraternity of guys who have lost to Tiger, so it’s good to finally get one,” said Marucci.
He captained Kuehne in last year’s USA Walker Cup victory at Royal Country Down Golf Club in Northern Ireland, and the locally-based Kuehne said he was happy to be there for him.
“It’s a lot more nerve-wracking watching Buddy play than playing myself,” said Kuehne. “But I’m glad to support him. He didn’t need any help from me.”
With the victory, Marucci was awarded a gold medal along with the Frederick L. Dold Trophy. He also received an invitation to play in the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Senior Opens and 2009 U.S. Amateur. In addition, he received an exemption out of U.S. Open local qualifying next year.
He became only the second USGA Walker Cup captain to ever win a national title while serving in that role, joining Jay Sigel.
Marucci, 55, from Villanova, Pa., will be unable to defend his USGA Senior Amateur title next year, since it will be played the same week as the Walker Cup Match, which will be held at Merion Golf Club, his summer home course.
“I never think about winning when I start out, but I’m always glad to be playing golf,” said Marucci. “This morning, George and I were talking about it on the first tee. We’re just glad to have made it all the way to the finals. We made it through a lot of matches to get here.”
Zahringer, 55, of New York, N.Y., trailed by as many as three holes on the back nine in the match, but rallied to cut the deficit to a single hole after parring the par-5 15th. The key point of the match came on the par-3 16th, when Marucci put his tee shot in the front bunker while Zahringer was safely on, 20 feet from the hole.
Marucci was able to blast out of the bunker to 4 feet; Zahringer missed his birdie putt. They made pars on the hole, then also parred the par-4 17th. Marucci needed a par to win the 18th.
“The up and down he made at 16 was really the shot of the match,” said Zahringer. “If he doesn’t make his par or I make my birdie, then the match is tied and I have all the momentum, but it didn’t happen.”
Marucci has played in 25 U.S. Amateurs, 23 U.S. Mid-Amateurs, two Walker Cups, one Senior Open and this, his first USGA Senior Amateur.
He said his first individual title could be the crowning achievement of his stellar amateur career.
“Being the captain of the Walker Cup team is the nicest thing which has ever happened to me, but this is pretty good,” he said. “I can’t wait to enjoy it with my friends and family at home.”
Art Stricklin is a freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA championship sites.