USGAAugust 29, 2019

Clutch up-and-down on 18th hole helps Georgia's Bob Royak win U.S. Senior Amateur

Bob Royak
Copyright USGA/Chris Keane

All’s well that ends well for Bob Royak, the new U.S. Senior Amateur champion. But after leading, albeit narrowly, much of the 18-hole championship match versus Roger Newsome on Thursday at Old Chatham Golf Club in Durham, N.C., only make a three-putt bogey the 17th hole to drop back into a tie, well let’s just say the victory did not come without some agita.

To his credit, the Alpharetta, Ga., resident who turns 58 next week, didn’t let the mistake get to him. Instead, he refocused and won the 18th with a par to claim the 1-up victory.

Both Royak and Newsome hit the fairway on the par-4 home hole but neither found the green with their approach shots. Newsome struggled with his chip from the rough, leaving a 35-foot putt for par. Royak used his wedge to get his ball to five feet. Newsome missed, and Royak found the bottom of the hole.

“Relief. Done. Yeah, it’s hard to describe [what it is] to be a USGA champion,” said Royak, who became the second winner in three years to take the title without making a birdie in the championship match. “You think about it [the night before] and even this morning before you tee off what it means, and when it finally happens, it’s like, ‘Whoo,’ relief.”

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In his 121 holes prior to the championship match, Newsome, 55, from Virginia Beach, Va., had made just 14 bogeys. But on Thursday, he made five. “I kind of gave too many [holes away] today,” Newsome said. “I gave more than what I had given away the first [five] matches.”

En route to the final, Royak took out the 2018 champion, Jeff Wilson, in 21 holes during their semifinal match. It was the third-longest semifinal contest in the championship’s history and kept Wilson from trying to become the first repeat winner in 39 years.

Royak, vice president at an executive search firm, has built up a solid golf resume in Georgia. He was the 2017 state senior player of the year after winning the Senior Amateur title. And he’s twice qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, including earlier this summer at Notre Dame’s Warren Golf Course. But this was the first time in 16 USGA championships that he had advanced past the Round of 16.

Two of Royak’s siblings were on hand this week. Older brother Jack served as Bob’s caddie during match play. That was after he carried the bag for their younger brother, Paul, who was also in the Senior Amateur field but failed to advance from stroke-play qualifying.