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MARION, Massachusetts – It may be another three years before the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship comes to The Kittansett Club, but on Monday, the 18-hole course tucked along a peninsula on Buzzards Bay served as the first step for hopeful competitors to advance to the 2019 Championship Proper – slated for the end of August at North Carolina’s Old Chatham Golf Club. Led by Buffton, South Carolina’s Duke Delcher, who earned medalist honors behind a 1-under 71 score in the 18-hole qualifier, four competitors punched their tickets to the 65th edition of the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, ensuring the opportunity to compete for national stardom beginning August 24.
Joining Delcher will be Franklin’s Keith Smith, a three-time Massachusetts Senior Amateur champion, as well as Hingham’s Bud Schultz and North Easton’s Steve Tasho. Smith carded a 1-over 72 to earn the second qualifying spot while both Schultz and Tasho each carded a 2-over 73 mark and earned entrance into the Championship Proper via a 5-for-2 playoff.
“I have not gone before so it’ll be my first and that will be a fun experience,” said Keith Smith on qualifying for his first ever USGA Championship Monday. The 61-year old Smith, the top-Bay State finisher in the field, birdied two of his first three holes to pace his round, then added a third birdie on the par-4 10th hole to move into the second spot on the leaderboard.
“I got a lot out of the round today and hit it very well for most of the round, struggled for the last few holes, but was able to hang on and post a good score,” said Smith after his round. “I bogeyed the first hole then made a few quick birdies, then birdied 10 to get a couple under.”
Despite bogeying the 12th, 13th, and 16th holes, all-par-4’s, Smith was able to make par on the par-4 17th hole, which played at 375 yards, and the 491-yard par-5 18th hole, to keep himself in contention and ultimately avoid a playoff for the final qualifying spots and subsequent alternate spots.
For Smith, who lived in Kinston, North Carolina, which is about 120 miles southeast of this year’s Championship site in Durham up until 12 years ago, the opportunity to return to the Tar Heel state for this Championship is one that he’ll look forward to even more.
“It’ll obviously be a great track and a strong field, so I’m looking forward to being a part of it.”
Additionally, the 59-year old Schultz, who just began playing golf nine years ago, birdied the first playoff hole to garner the third qualifying spot, while Tasho edged Worcester’s Gerald Oneill for the final qualifying spot. Tasho, 60, will be playing in his first U.S. Senior Amateur Championship following in his first time attempting to qualify, and his 14th USGA Championship overall. He last played in a USGA Championship Proper back in the 2008 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which was contested at Milwaukee Country Club in River Hills, Wis
Oneill earned first alternate status while Scarborough, Maine’s Len Cole earned second alternate status.
Delcher, Smith, Schultz and Tasho will join Boxford’s Frank Vana, Jr. in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. Vana, Jr. is exempt into the Championship Proper as a result of his 2017 semifinalist finish at the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship.
Mass Golf will provide coverage of its Massachusetts competitors competing in the 65th U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, North Carolina from August 24-29. Visit MassGolf.org and follow @PlayMassGolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest information. To join the conversation, use the hashtags #MassGolf and #USSeniorAm.