The 2023 Golfweek Senior National Match Play event began with 42 of the country’s top senior golfers ranging in age from 55 years old to 75 and up, now finds eight players vying for one of four championships.
With Duke University Golf Club in Durham, North Carolina, playing host, 16 players teed it up in search of continuing their quest towards 1,200 Golfweek Player of the Year points. With just a few events left in the season, every shot matters as the season begins its final stretch.
NOTE: Seeding for this event was based off of the Golfweek Player of the Year rankings as of August 1st. If the player was not ranked in Golfweek’s PoY rankings, random draw or national ranking was used.
Senior Bracket (55-64)
After a no-contest in the first round and a 3 and 2 victory over No. 1 seed Todd Hendley in the quarterfinals, No. 8 Craig Hurlbert squared off with No. 4 Brian Keenan.
Winning three of the first six holes, Hurlbert took a 2 up lead into the par-5 7th. Both Hendley and Hurlbert walked away with bogeys as Keenan looked to gain a bit of momentum before making the turn.
Knotting it back up with wins on Nos. 8 and 9, Keenan was able to use a hot putter to get the match back to all square.
“Nine was another little turning point,” Kennan told Golfweek. “I hit a so-so chip shot…I curled it [the putt] in and got it to even through the turn.”
After Hurlbert won No. 11 with a par, Keenan drained a 50-foot downhill sliding putt on the par-3 12th to tie the match back up before an hour-long rain delay forced players off of the course.
“That was another one I was just trying to get close,” Kennan said. “It just trickled, trickled, trickled and it went right in the middle. He [Hurlbert] just started to shake his head a little bit, but he’s a good competitor and a friendly, good guy to play against.”
After the rain delay, both players exchanged pars before Keenan was able to win No. 16 with a par. With two holes left to play, pars were exchanged with Keenan coming away with a 1 up victory and an even par round of 72.
Facing Keenan in Friday’s championship match is the hot-handed 6-seed, Ken Kinkopf.
En route to the championship round, Kinkopf has won his matches 8 and 7, 4 and 2 and finally a 6 and 5 victory over No. 7 seed Kirk Wright.
Kinkopf needed just 49 shots through 13 holes to advance past Wright and earn his spot in the championship match. An eagle and four birdies highlighted his card on Thursday. For the week, Kinkopf is officially even through 47 holes of golf. Unlike many of his competitors, Kinkopf continues to play after his match is over to keep his game sharp. The strategy is clearly paying off as both he and Keenan are in top form heading into Friday’s championship match.
Super Senior Bracket (65-69)
No upsets took place in the eight-man Super Senior bracket Wednesday as all four of the top seeds advanced to Thursday’s semifinals.
In the No. 1 versus No. 4 matchup between Marcus Beck and Keith Waters, it was Waters who was able to squeak by the top man in the division with a 2 up win.
No. 2 James Starnes and No. 3 John Armstrong battled it out for 17 holes as Starnes solidified his spot in the finals with a pair of birdies on Nos. 16 and 17.
Legends Bracket (70-74)
Advancing to the semifinals with back-to-back 4 and 3 wins, five-seed Pete Allen looked to take down No. 1 George Walker.
Averaging 225 yards off of the tee, Allen gave up 75+ yards to Walker who, despite his age, is able to drive the ball over 300 yards at times. Tack on the fact that Walker got a first-round bye and Allen needed 30 holes to advance to the semis and Allen would appear to be the David to Walker’s Goliath.
Nicknamed ‘Pointblank Pete’ by John Daly following a pro-am event back in 1994, Pete Allen took the fight to Walker, quickly gaining a 3-up advantage through the first three holes.
It wasn’t until the par-3 8th that Walker was able to get on the board. Two down and making the turn, the horn blew and the match was paused as storms moved through the area.
“It [the rain delay] helped me because I was fading,” Allen told Golfweek.
After the quick rest, Walker returned the hot start Allen had to begin the day with three straight wins on holes 10, 11 and 12. Down in a match for the first time all week, Allen knew he had to get something going if he was going to advance.
Tied through No. 14, Allen made birdie on the par-3 15th with a chip-in birdie to take a 1-up advantage. Holding on to the lead the rest of the way, Pete Allen’s run to the championship continues Friday, facing off against No. 3 Bev Hargraves.
Hargraves defeated second-seeded Sam Robinson 3 and 2 to advance.
Super Legends Bracket (75+)
After a 7-and-5 win in the quarterfinals, top-seeded John Blank looked to continue his strong play against No. 5 Joe Pavoni.
Doing just that, Blank advances to the title match after defeating Pavoni 4 and 3.
Meeting him there is No. 2 George Owens.
Playing his way into the semis with a 5-and-3 win on Wednesday, Owens was in control of his match against No. 6 seed John Casstevens. 1 down through 12, Casstevens elected to withdraw for reasons unknown, setting up a one-two matchup with 1,200 Golfweek Player of the Year points on the line.