3 Things to Know: 68th U.S. Senior Amateur

By David Shefter, USGA

| Aug 25, 2023 | Truckee, Calif.

3 Things to Know: 68th U.S. Senior Amateur

Ten years ago, the golf world first got to know an up-and-coming junior/amateur standout named Scottie Scheffler. That July week at Martis Camp Club, in Truckee, Calif., the Texan claimed the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, defeating future University of Texas teammate Doug Ghim in the semifinals and then Davis Riley in the 36-hole final.

Since that victory, Scheffler went on to become an All-American for the Longhorns, play on a victorious USA Walker Cup Team and then rise to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, an ascension that included victories in the 2022 Masters Tournament and 2023 Players Championship.

Such a future star likely won’t be discovered when the best 55-and-older male golfers gather at Martis Camp for this week’s 68th U.S. Senior Amateur. But the Tom Fazio design, which opened in 2008 and is nestled just a short chairlift ride from the Northstar Ski Resort, will most assuredly test these competitors like it did in 2013.

The layout offers stellar views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains while featuring mature pines and natural elevation changes (5,900 feet to 7,100 feet at its highest point). Because the championship will be played at altitude, the 156 players will spend the two practice rounds dialing in their exact yardages to compete on the longest course in U.S. Senior Amateur history (7,389 yards, par 72).

Here are three things to know:

Going For Two

Last August, Rusty Strawn defeated fellow Georgian and past U.S. Senior Amateur champion Doug Hanzel at The Kittansett Club in Massachusetts for his first USGA title. Now the McDonough resident hopes to become the first player in 43 years to successfully defend the crown. William C. Campbell captured Senior Amateur titles in 1979-80, but nobody has been able to win two straight since.

Three players have managed to return to the final as the defending champion: Dr. Ed Updegraff (won in 1981, lost in 1982), Mark Bemowski (won in 2004, lost in 2005) and Sean Knapp (won in 2017, lost in 2018).

Strawn tuned up for his week in California by competing in the U.S. Amateur at Cherry Hills Country Club and stroke-play co-host Colorado Golf Club, both of which are in similar altitude. Despite missing the cut for match play, the 60-year-old Strawn certainly used the opportunity to get his game ready for Martis Camp.

Sweet Carolinians

Few players in U.S. Senior Amateur history can match the record of Paul Simson, the 72-year-old resident of Raleigh, N.C., who is the second-oldest competitor in the field, owns a pair of titles (2010 and 2012) and was the runner-up to Sean Knapp in 2017. His 36 match-play wins are bested only by three-time winner Lewis Oehmig (38) and William Hyndman III (37).

But his most remarkable feat is he’s never lost a first-round match, going 14-for-14 in the Round of 64. Simson, who is playing in his 67th USGA championship dating to the 1967 U.S. Junior Amateur, has only missed the match-play cut once and that came two years ago at the Country Club of Detroit.

On the other end of the Senior Amateur spectrum is newcomer Todd White, 55, of Spartanburg, S.C. White, who is making his 35th USGA championship appearance, claimed the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball title in 2015 with 2013 USA Walker Cup teammate Nathan Smith. White certainly is one of the 13 first-year eligible players to watch this week. The Spartanburg High history teacher just qualified for next month’s U.S. Mid-Amateur, a championship in which he’s reached the semifinals (2012) and quarterfinals on two other occasions.

Mark(ing) His Territory

From the moment Mark Sear qualified for this year’s championship, his phone was blowing up with text messages. And for good reason. Sear, 59, of Los Angeles, Calif., is a member at Martis Camp. While not yet a member in 2013 when Martis Camp hosted its last USGA championship, the event did inspire him to purchase a home on the property six years ago. Since then, he has won the club championship on five occasions. This will be his third USGA championship, following one U.S. Amateur and one U.S. Mid-Amateur.

While players competing in a USGA championship at their home club isn’t all that rare, winning titles at the venue hasn’t occurred much. The legendary Carol Semple Thompson captured a U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at Allegheny Country Club, in Sewickley, Pa., and George Zahringer won the 2002 U.S. Mid-Amateur at The Stanwich Club, in Greenwich, Conn. Back in 1940, Richard Chapman won the U.S. Amateur at Winged Foot Golf Club.

More recently, Jackson Van Paris (Country Club of North Carolina, 2021) and Kynadie Adams (The Club at Olde Stone, 2022) came up short in their bids to win the U.S. Junior Amateur and U.S. Girls’ Junior, respectively.

David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at dshefter@usga.org.