Knapp claims his 4th Butler Eagle County Amateur championship in last 5 years
Butler Eagle
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August 15, 2012
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Sean Knapp watches his ball after teeing off during the U.S. Amateur Golf Qualifier at Grove City Country Club last summer. Knapp won his fourth Butler Eagle County Amateur golf title in five years Sunday, carding a 2-under-par 68 at Oakview Golf Club.

SLIPPERY ROCK — Four out of five isn’t bad.

St. Jude Golf Club member Sean Knapp claimed his fourth Butler Eagle County Amateur golf title in five years Sunday, carding a 2-under-par 68 at Oakview Golf Club.

Two of Knapp’s previous three Eagle Amateur titles also occurred at Oakview. He edged Bennett Smith by one stroke to claim this year’s crown.

Knapp and Smith played in the same foursome Sunday morning.

“We’re really good friends and we’ve played golf together probably 100 times,” Knapp said. “It was hard resisting the urge of mentally getting into a match-play situation with Ben.

“There are too many other excellent golfers in this field to do that. But on the other hand, if I don’t beat Ben, I can’t win.”

Smith ended Knapp’s run of three consecutive Eagle Amateur titles by carding a 67 to claim last year’s event at Hiland Golf Course.

“I’m glad they paired us together. It was a fun morning,” Smith said. “Hole Nos. 9 and 12 ultimately cost me. They were the difference.

Knapp’s drive on the par-3 No. 9 wound up less than a foot from the cup and he tapped in for birdie. Smith said a wind gust on that hole caused his drive to sail over the green. He wound up with a bogey.

Both golfers birdied Nos. 10 and 11. While Knapp parred the par-5 No. 12, Smith needed four shots to get on the green and missed his par putt.

“I got into some trees and it cost me a stroke,” said Smith.

Knapp said he was able to “build some momentum after that and bring it home.”

Both golfers had six birdies on the day.

“We both probably would have shot two strokes lower if we weren’t playing together,” Knapp said.

“I can see that point,” Smith partly agreed. “We would have made fewer mistakes playing separately, but we probably would have made fewer birdies, too.”

Dave Ruffaner, also playing the morning round, finished third overall, shooting an even-par 70. Rob Stoops, Sean Wright and Bob Yuhas each shot 71. Wright and Yuhas played the afternoon round.

“I’m very pleased with what I did out there today,” Ruffaner said. “I made some putts and I chipped very well.

“This was the second-best round I’ve played all year, so the timing was good.”

Ruffaner shot a 69 during a practice round at Oakview earlier this year.

“I had a 31 on the front nine. I went nuts,” he said.

Ruffaner shared the seniors division title of the Eagle Amateur in 2010. Knapp, now eligible in the seniors division, claimed that title this year.

Three-time Butler Country Club champion Jane Wymer won the Eagle Amateur women’s title Sunday with a record 76 for that division. Tanya Wilkinson set the previous mark of 77 last year.

Wymer easily topped the other 13 women in the 152-golfer field. Brenda Kriley finished second with an 83, seven strokes behind.

“This was a very good round for me,” Wymer said. “I had a couple of birdies. The course was in great condition, the weather was perfect and the company was fantastic.”

Wymer said she only plays Oakview twice a year. This was the first time she played in the Eagle Amateur.

“I love the event. I’ll be back next year to defend,” she promised.

Travis Shingleton won the first-flight championship with a 76, edging Nathan Black and Brett Sutch by a stroke. Former Knoch golf coach Kevin Zitzman won the second-flight title with an 81, one stroke better than Wes Lefebvre.

Ron Vodenichar repeated as third-flight champion with an 85, two strokes better than Cheryll Cranmer and Rebecca Gilson.

The 152 golfers marked the largest turnout for the Eagle Amateur since 158 played at Oakview in the 2009 event. This marks the fifth time in the last 10 years that 150 or more golfers took part.

“When word got out about the great condition of the golf course, it really helped us,” committee member John Carpenter said.