Former Walker Cup Teammates Giles, Grace To Meet In Final
Chicago – Two former USA Walker Cup teammates will battle one another in the USGA Senior Amateur 18-hole final at Beverly Country Club after winning their respective semifinal matches Wednesday.
On Thursday morning, 66-year-old Vinny Giles of Richmond, Va., and John Grace, 61, of Fort Worth, Texas, will square off on the 6,672-yard, par-71 Donald Ross redesign. Both finalists are now exempt into next year’s U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur.
The two were on the victorious 1975 USA Walker Cup squad that also featured Jay Haas, Gary Koch, Jerry Pate, Craig Stadler and Curtis Strange, all of whom went on to have fulfilling professional careers, with Pate (1976) and Strange (1988 and ’89) winning U.S. Open titles.
“I have a lot of stories to tell from that and all of them are good,” said Grace, after dispatching 2004 Senior Amateur winner Mark Bemowski, 3 and 2, on a gusty afternoon. In the morning’s quarterfinals, Grace also knocked off 2002 Senior Amateur champion Greg Reynolds, 62, of Grand Blanc, Mich., 3 and 1.
Should Giles win Thursday, he would go 37 years between winning USGA titles. The 1972 U.S. Amateur champion is also looking to join William C. Campbell as the only players to have won a U.S. Amateur and USGA Senior Amateur title. Incidentally, Giles laughed when he was told that every player he’s beaten this week has been 56 years of age.
“Babies. Just babies,” he cracked.
For Grace, a reinstated amateur who played in Europe, it’s an opportunity to earn a USGA title that had slipped through his fingers 35 years ago. He finished runner-up to Pate in the 1974 U.S. Amateur.
“About being back in [a USGA] final, it feels pretty good,” said Grace. “I don’t think surprised would be the right word. When I came here, I was playing really, really well. But I’ve played eight rounds in 10 days. We’ll see how much I have left tomorrow.”
The semifinal duel was a case of missed chances for Bemowski. With the match all square on No. 14, Bemowski lost the hole when he overshot the green and couldn’t save par with a 5-foot putt. On the next hole, it was Grace’s turn to save par, finding the line on an 18-footer.
Grace won the 16th when Bemowski, who had scrambled the entire match, couldn’t save par from 10 feet.
“I just hit some poor shots,” said a disappointed Bemowski, twice a runner-up. “What can I say. I made a million bogeys.”
Speaking of bogeys, Giles entered match play with one goal: make pars or better. In his 1-up victory over John Pallin of Kenosha, Wis., Giles minimized his bogey output, making two that lost holes. After getting 3 up through eight, Pallin chipped away at the deficit until squaring things on the par-4 13th hole with 15-foot right-to-left birdie.
Pallin’s hopes went south from there. Giles regained the advantage on No. 15. He stroked a 45-foot putt from below the hole within inches and took par. It put Pallin in a must-make situation. He had gone in the right greenside rough and couldn’t get up and down.
Perhaps the shot of the match came on 17. Giles guided in a 12-footer to save par, but more important, halved the hole.
“That was a big putt on 17,” said Giles. “I didn’t make many birdie putts, but that was a crucial putt when I needed it. I don’t buy that [junk] that you play one shot at a time. I just need to start focusing more.”
When Pallin couldn’t chip in from the back greenside rough on 18 for a birdie, Giles won the match.
“I just took a lot of bad swings,” said Pallin. “I just didn’t play all that well in that match. My driver was off all week and I put myself in bad spots.”
For Giles, he said he didn’t expect to get to the final, adding that a lot of things have to go right. In the mid 1970s, after winning the Amateur in its last year as a 72-hole stroke-play competition, and finishing runner-up in 1967, ’68 and ’69, he quit playing golf to devote more time to family and work. He returned to the game in the mid 1980s and has continued to play competitively.
If he can win Thursday, his career will have come full circle.
The USGA Senior Amateur is one of 13 national championships conducted annually by the United States Golf Association. Ten are strictly for amateurs. The Senior Amateur final is scheduled for 9 a.m. CDT.
Story written by Ken Klavon, the USGA’s Editor of Digital Media. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chicago – Results of Wednesday’s quarterfinals and semifinals of match play in the 55th USGA Senior Amateur at the 6,672-yard, par-71 Beverly Country Club:
Marvin “Vinny” Giles III, Richmond, Va. (145) def. William T Doughtie, Amarillo, Texas (143), 2 and 1
John Pallin, Kenosha, Wis. (142) def. Michael Walters, Tampa, Fla. (144), 2 up
John Grace, Fort Worth, Texas (142) def. Greg Reynolds, Grand Blanc, Mich. (145), 3 and 1
Mark Bemowski, Mukwonago, Wis. (146) def. Mike Bell, Indianapolis, Ind. (141), 2 and 1
Giles III def. Pallin, 1 up
Grace def. Bemowski, 3 and 2
Chicago – Pairing for Thursday morning’s 18-hole final round at the 55th USGA Senior Amateur, being held at the 6,672-yard, par-71 Beverly Country Club (CDT):
9 a.m. -- Marvin “Vinny” Giles III, Richmond, Va. (145) vs. John Grace, Fort Worth, Texas (142)