Sean Knapp takes lead at 117th Amateur Championship

Posted June 26, 2017 - By Mike Dudurich, Freelance writer and host of The Golf Show on 93.7 The Fan Saturday mornings from 7-8 AM. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeDudurich

Sean Knapp teeing off at Latrobe Country Club during the 2016 Palmer Cup Matches.

WESTMONT – An advantage is only valuable if someone uses it wisely.

In this case, that someone is Sean Knapp.

The seven-time West Penn Amateur champion put himself in position become an eight-timer with rounds of 68-68 Monday at Sunnehanna Country Club.

Knapp’s advantage is that, not only has he played in the Sunnehanna Amateur 26 times, but he’s also won a West Penn Amateur at Sunnehanna in 2000 on that A.W. Tillinghast beauty.

“I’m very satisfied with what I did today,” the 55-year-old Knapp said after making nine birdies and five bogeys in 36 holes. “Sure, the experience helps, but you still have to hit good shots and I hit a lot of them today. The fact they didn’t change pin positions between rounds was a reinforcement for me from what I did in the first round.”

Thirteen players enter the final round within six shots of the lead. Chuck Nettles of McMurray is the closest pursuer, one shot behind after rounds of 70-67.

A pair of players are two shots back, David Brown and Greensburg’s Mark Goetz. Brown, a three-time West Penn Amateur champion, was leading at five-under par going to the 17th hole in the afternoon, but suffered a triple-bogey there.

“That’s also part of the advantage, if there is one,” Knapp, of Oakmont, said. “David is the only one near the top that has won before. I won those other seven by playing a with a certain approach and I’m trying to do it this week today. I don’t care I’m in the lead. I want to go out tomorrow and play nine good holes and then the tournament starts. I just have to play well and then start thinking about what’s going on. I think I’ll feel more comfortable than I normally would.”

Sitting in a tie for seventh is Will Wears, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, who passed away last September. A recent graduate of Loyola Maryland in Baltimore, posted rounds of 72-68 while playing in the same group as Knapp on Monday.

“I hit the ball pretty good,” Wears said. “I just needed a few more putts to fall. If I can have a good putting day in the final, you never know.”

His most recent competition was the Frank B. Fuhrer Jr. Invitational and he finished in a tie for 10th there. He was unhappy with his putter there also, saying “I really didn’t get much out of my rounds there.”

Wears was a first-team all-Patriot League performer and led the Greyhounds to the conference title for the eighth time in the last nine years.

“One thing I learned from watching Sean today was that you have to be super patient here,” Wears said. “You have to pick and choose where you try to be aggressive and that’s what I’ll be trying to do.”

Additional former champions in the field include Rick Stimmel in 1997 at the Pittsburgh Field Club, Greg Podufal in 2012 at The Kahkwa Club and Trent Karlik in 2014 at Penn State Golf Courses. Stimmel is at five-over after two rounds, Podufal four-over, Karlik six-over. All three made the cut into the final round.

The cut came at seven-over par 147.

Six rounds in the 60s were posted in the morning, while 11 players were under par in the afternoon. The field was cut to the low 32 scores and ties and 32 players will compete, with the third round starting at 7:45 a.m. The final grouping of Knapp and Nettles will get started at 10.