kansas-golf-magazine online-entry post-scores
Kansas Golf Associaition

Chase Hanna Gets His Birthday Wish and Wins the Kansas Amateur


Stroke Play Results --  Match Play Results --  Photo Gallery

Do you remember what you got for your 19th birthday?  Maybe it was a car (probably a used Chase Hanna, 2013 Kansas Amateur championone) or a trip and you would remember that.  Most people would have no recollection of anything that happened that day in their life.  Even if Chase Hanna lives to be 100 years-old he will remember what happened on this birthday in 2013 – he won the Kansas Amateur Match Play Championship at Indian Hills Country Club in front a small crowd of family and friends and when the final hole was decided and he had prevailed over Sam Stevens, 5&3, a chorus of “Happy Birthday” filled the air.

The 103rd Kansas Amateur was special.  Mother Nature blessed the participants with a week of mild temperatures, albeit some light showers for an hour on Friday, and the historic A.W. Tillinghast golf course was superbly groomed and ready to provide a tough test.  The field of 156 contestants with an average age of about 28 was a good one but no one player stood out as a favorite.  As the event unfolded, the players embraced a better pace of play initiative and completed stroke play rounds in less than their allotted time.  The inevitable sudden-death play-off for the final six seeds in the match play bracket only took two holes to determine (allowing KGA president Gary Lucas and a former Kansas Amateur champion Sean Thayer to advance to match play as survivors), and the bracket contained many interesting match-ups, storylines, and a few “veteran” amateurs to take on the young guns.

As the rounds of match play progressed and one after another of the older, more experienced players fell to younger opponents, it was confirmed that this championship is built for golfers with flexibility, stamina and fearless nerves.   Leawood’s Chase Hanna, a freshman to-be on KU’s golf team, and Sam Stevens who still attends Mt. Kapaun High School in Wichita, made for an all teenage final match.  The four former Kansas Amateur champions in the field who all fit in the over 30 age group could only be amazed and tried to remember what it was like to be that young.

What’s Past is Prologue

In 1985 John Sinovic, at age 19, staged an upset 5&4 win over Don Walsworth in the Kansas Amateur played at Indian Hills Country Club.  Walsworth was a young standout from Kansas1985 Amateur champion John Sinovic City who was on the golf team at Stanford (some guy by the name of Watson played there too!).  Walsworth went on to play professional golf on several tours including the PGA Tour and he played in a few U.S. Opens.  Sinovic played golf at KU, graduated and then worked in the golf business as an equipment representative for a time.  He has had a good amateur golf career.

The two took some time during the program at the annual KGA Champions dinner prior to the start of the Kansas Amateur to reminisce about their match 28 years ago.  Walsworth will admit that the loss is hard to forget but he respects Sinovic for handling the pressure and playing a good match.  Sinovic claims the win as the highlight of his golfing life.

When it was noted that Walsworth, now age 49 and having regained his amateur status years ago, was in the field for this year’s Kansas Amateur being played at Indian Hills, he confidently said that he would give it his best.  Not surprisingly, Walsworth shot 3-over par 143 to earn the 21st seed.  He defeated Thane Ringler, a NAIA All-American, 5&4 in the opening round but then lost to David Klaudt, a K-State senior from Dallas, 2&1 in the second round.  For Walsworth it was no reliving his youth this year.

Almost a Kansas Amateur Champion

Besides Don Walsworth, three other golfers in the starting field had won a Kansas Amateur runner-up trophy.Don Walsworth

Ben Juffer from West Des Moines, Iowa lost to Kyle Smell, a K-State teammate, last year at Sand Creek Station in Newton.  Playing without the benefit of an Indian Hills practice round due to a U.S. Amateur qualifier in Iowa, Juffer hurt his chances with an opening round eight-over par 78.  He improved to 73 for the second round, but his 11-over par 151 was two strokes out of the play-off for the final match play seeds.

Pete Krsnich, a Wichita commercial insurance agent, remembers playing 54 holes on a Sunday in hot July in 2004 when he lost to Jayhawk teammate Kevin Ward in the finals at Tyler SheltonShadow Glen.  The Saturday morning quarterfinals were delayed to the afternoon due to heavy rain.  After Ward and Krsnich won semifinal matches Sunday morning, they both wanted a 36-hole final match.  Ward won on the 36th hole.  Krsnich held the overnight lead this year at Indian Hills.  His 4-under par 66 would surely give him another chance at the coveted title.   Add in an easy 2-over par 72 and Krsnich could find a path back to the finals from the #3 seed.  He won his first round match over Shawn Audrain of Garden City 4&2.  As a result of his defeat in the second round, Krsnich shares two KGA records for longevity.  He and partner Kevin Ward hold the record for longest match in the Kansas Four-Ball (28 holes, which they lost) and now he shares the record for longest match in the Kansas Amateur (6 extra holes) having lost to Colby Yates of Tonganoxie.

Tyler Shelton has been a top amateur player in Kansas for many years before and after a stint as a professional golfer.   In 2005 he took on Gary Woodland at Colbert Hills where Woodland won his first of two Kansas Amateur titles.  Now we follow his career on the PGA Tour.  Shelton has the game to win a Kansas Amateur and it shows.  His rounds of 71 and 72 earned him the #23 seed and a first round match with 1996 Kansas Amateur champion Corey Novascone from Wichita.  The former champion prevailed 4&3, but you can expect to see Shelton playing in future Kansas Amateurs.

Who Are These Guys?

Annually over 370 KGA member golfers try to qualify for a spot in the 156-player championship field.   Each year brings new faces and the departure of older golfers that decide they can’t keep up or play that many consecutive days.  The composition of the 2013 field had some interesting stats:

The average age was 28.77 with the youngest player age 15 and the oldest player was 66.

There were 33 players in the “junior golfer”’ category, or age 18 or younger (two of those ended up in the finals on Sunday).

There were 19 players in the “senior golfer” category, or age 50 and older.  Of those senior golfers, four played well enough to reach the match play bracket.   All four lost in the first round.

There were four former Kansas Amateur champions in the field.  They have a lifetime exemption from qualifying.  William Hess (1979) did not qualify for match play.  Bryan Norton (1980 and 2002), Sean Thayer (1999) and Corey Novascone (1996) all made it to match play but only Novascone won a match.  In fact, he won two matches and was eliminated in the round of 16 by eventual winner Chase Hanna, 5&4.

30 of the players had at some time in the past won a KGA championship.

Tillinghast with Teeth!

Indian Hills Country Club opened in 1926.  This A.W. Tillinghast design has matured and while the game has outgrown many classic golf courses, Indian Hills still has the teeth to challenge the best golfers.  Very low scores are possible but rare.  Birdies are hard to make because of the subtle slopes on the putting greens.  There is only one water hazard that comes into play (on the par 3 #7 hole) but the abundance of trees lining each fairway more than adequately defend par.  A driver is not needed but if it is used it better be straight.  Bunkers are plentiful.

With 308 scores posted during stroke play qualifying, the average round was 75.468 on the Jeff Tyrrellpar 70 6,500–yard layout.  That would equate to a score of 151 for two rounds, or two strokes higher than the score needed to be in the play-off for the last six seeds.

The holes that yielded the most birdies were #18, a par five that was reachable in two strokes by most of the field, and #4, a straight away 410-yard par four.  #18 had had 114 birdies and 4 eagles while #4 had 43 birdies and 1 eagle.

There was one hole-in-one at the short #3 hole.  Jeff Tyrrell of Duncan, Oklahoma had the right club and got a good bounce and roll into the hole during the second round set up from only 128 yards.

The most difficult holes were #17, a par 3 that even though it is downhill (and usually downwind) can be stretched to 240 yards; #12, a 423-yard par 4 with an extremely treacherous putting green guarded by deep bunkers; and #10, an uphill 377-yard par 4 with a putting green that could be mistaken for an amusement ride that makes you weak in the knees.

The golf course proved itself to be a perfect combination of superb conditioning and preparation that demanded accuracy over length from the tee, thoughtful approaches to the greens and confident putting.  Vary slightly from any of those and a bogey or worse would bite.

Let the Games (Matches) Begin!

Fort Hays State junior Trey Herman grabbed the #1 seed with consecutive sub-par rounds of 69 and 67.

Trey HermanHe made eight birdies in 36 holes and only four bogeys.  That is a good formula for match play success.

The Kansas Golf Foundation scholar has a calm demeanor and keeps his swing and ball flight under control.  In his first round match he drew the final survivor of the Wednesday evening play-off Gary Lucas of Topeka.  The current KGA president drove home, slept little, and returned Thursday morning with a car load of other much younger Topekans who also had morning matches.  The #1 seed gets to go first every morning as long as he keeps winning.  Herman avoided bogeys and let Lucas make a few and advanced with a 3&2 win.  In Friday’s double match day, Herman notched two more wins and then took on 19 year-old Ryan Argotsinger of Lee’s Summit in the quarterfinals.  The lefty playing in his first Kansas Amateur gave Herman a close match but Herman advanced with the 1 up win.  Argotsinger was excited to learn that his quarterfinal appearance earns an exemption to the 2014 Kansas Amateur.  He will spend the upcoming college golf season at Southern Mississippi sitting outGary Lucas as a transfer from Northern Iowa.   Herman’s semifinal match would be against the #37 seed, Sam Stevens, the 17 year-old Wichitan committed to play college golf at powerhouse Oklahoma State.

St. Louis product Kyle Weldon, a member of the much improved K-State golf team, had quietly taken the #2 seed and proceeded to throw five birdies on 63rd seed Don Kuehn for a 7&5 win.  The 66 year-old retiree from Kansas City has had much match play success in his time, but this was one match he could not school the kid.   Weldon then suffered a surprising 3&2 loss in the second round when local mid-amateur John Lovell birdied the first hole and never trailed has he made four more.

#3 seed Pete Krsnich won 4&2 in the opening round but could not shake the Tonganoxie kid Colby Yates.  Six extra holes determined the outcome.  Krsnich could not make another long Pete Krsnichpar saving putt on the last extra hole.

 

Michael McGee, the remaining of the top four seeds, sent former champion Sean Thayer back to work in his Garden City office with a 3&2 win and then needed an extra hole to win over Andy King of Junction City.  His misfortune was to meet SMU senior to-be Harry Higgs in the quarterfinals.  Higgs, the 45th seed, has the game to beat anyone when he’s on.  Higgs won 3&1.

The Harry Higgs vs. Sam Stevens quarterfinal match could have been a very good match up for the Sunday finals.  Both long hitters with great short games, it would come down to who was sharp and who was not.  Higgs found out early that it wasn’t him.  Stevens birdied the first hole while Higgs made bogey on two of the first three holes.   Stevens won seven holes of the 14 played for a quick 5&4 win.

 

Mark Terranova of Overland Park, another solid veteran mid-amateur, and Colby Yates each methodically moved through the bracket with three wins each to meet in a quarterfinal match.  The match was all square until the #8 hole when Yates, a sophomore at the University of Missouri St. Louis, birdied and that was followed by Terranova’s big number at #9.   Yates coasted with his 2 up advantage and then landed the knockout punches with birdies at #13 and #14 to take a 4&3 win after the next hole.

 

Hanna Begins “The Chase” to a Title

In June, a month prior to the 103rd Kansas Amateur, Chase Hanna was enjoying his final summer before starting college at KU.  He will be a freshman member of the golf team and maybe he will do well enough to make the travelling squad.  Sometimes freshmen need time to adjust.  On June 11th, Hanna started a journey in golf the end of which is not yet known, Ryan Argotsingerbut KU head coach Jamie Bermel is excited with its fast start.  On that day, Hanna played in the first of three rounds at the Kansas Junior Amateur Championship staged at the par 72 Quail Ridge Golf Course in Winfield, Kansas.   Six birdies and no bogeys for a 66 put Hanna so far in front of the other juniors that he could just coast.  But this youngster has a competitive fire beneath his confident demeanor.  In the second round he posted a four-under par 68 with five birdies.   His four birdies in the third round were spoiled by some bad holes, but in the end a record was set; Hanna won the Kansas Junior Amateur by a record margin of eight strokes and was the only player in the field to finish under par.

A week later on June 18th Chase Hanna teed off in the prestigious Western Junior Championship being played at Meridian Country Club in Indianapolis, Indiana.  In front a full field of the nation’s very best junior golfers, Hanna proceeded to turn heads with seven birdies and one eagle for good measure.  One bogey mistake was not enough to keep Hanna from a score of 8-under par 63, a new course record.  Three subsequent rounds were not as filled with birdies and he finished in a tie for 23rd, but the statement had been made to his Kyle Weldoncontemporaries – “I can play this game”!

 

So, with a Kansas Junior trophy on the shelf and some great press clippings in the scrapbook, Chase Hanna drove the few miles from his Leawood home to play in the Kansas Amateur at Indian Hills Country Club.  After a practice round with two-time former champion Bryan Norton, from whom he surely received some good advice, Hanna knew not only that he liked the golf course, but that he could shoot some good scores on the 6,500-yard layout.  After two days of stroke play qualifying for the match play bracket, nothing happened to change the outlook of the 18-year old Shawnee Mission East High School graduate.

 

Posting a 1-under par 139 using seven birdies to offset a few mistakes, Hanna had secured a nice seeding at #7 - not so high that he had extra pressure to perform in match play, but high enough to perhaps intimidate an opponent.  Thursday morning it was time to resume the journey.

Ben Lowman from Manhattan would be a tough test in the first round.  Lowman just three weeks earlier shocked the field at the KGA Public Links Championship at Auburn Hills in Wichita.  Lowman made five birdies along with two eagles on the back nine to give him a one-stroke victory over reigning KGA Senior and Mid-Amateur champion Steve Newman.  In a close contest with only two birdies, both made by Hanna, the 1 up win went to Hanna.

 

Next up on Friday morning for Hanna was the reigning High Plains Amateur champion, GrantHarry Higgs Vollertsen, who had managed a first round extra hole win over Jayhawk team member David Auer of Wichita.  With three birdies in the first six holes of the match combined with Vollertsen’s slow start, Hanna built a lead too big to overcome despite the Garden City dentist’s three birdies from #8 through #11.  Hanna advanced with a 4&3 win.

 

Friday afternoon Corey Novascone got his chance to see what all the “Hanna Hype” was about.  But surely the young man would know that he was a former Kansas Amateur champion, even if Hanna was only a year-old at the time Novascone won over Marty Sallaz at Crestview Country Club.  Through ten holes Hanna had only a thin 1 up advantage.  Then what Novascone feared would happen, did happen.  Hanna got hot and he got tired.  Hanna’s two-birdie-two-par run closed him out after the 14th hole.

 

A good night’s rest and Saturday morning presented what should have been a routine win for Zach VandolahHanna.  Hold on - Zach Vandolah, the 50th seed, had upset on his mind.   Vandolah, a mid-amateur from Kansas City, Missouri was a new face for the Kansas Amateur and the quarterfinals.   Hanna built what should have been a comfortable 4 up lead through just 12 holes, but Vandolah wasn’t going away that easy.  Hanna saw his lead dwindle over the final six holes based on Vandolah’s three birdies in the last four holes.  Like a seasoned veteran Hanna did not lose his cool.  Instead he birdied the second extra hole, a par five, and put himself into the afternoon semifinals against Colby Yates.

 

If the match between Chase Hanna and Colby Yates were based on personality only, it would be a draw.  Typically smiling and always a gentleman, both players exude a quiet confidence thatColby Yates will serve them well in life.  Yates road to the semifinal match was littered with Jayhawk roadkill.  He shot down Jackson Foth, Lake Quivira, a current member of the KU golf team, 1 up.  Then he wore out Kansas golfer alum Pete Krsnich over 24 holes.  In the third round he took the color out of Kit Grove’s outfit.  The former Jayhawk head golf coach, known for his eye-catching attire, lost to Yates 3&2.  After his quarterfinal win over Terranova, it was Yates on the first tee with Chase Hanna for a tough semifinal match.

 

On the other side of the bracket Sam Stevens was having an easy time of it.  After his 5&4 removal of Higgs, Stevens took out the #1 seed by the same margin.  Trey Herman’s steady game lost some of its energy on Saturday afternoon and Stevens took advantage to claim his spot in the Sunday 36-hole final match.

 

Hanna struck first against Yates with a birdie at #1 but gave one back at #4 with a bogey.  Hanna’s birdies and #7 and #10 gave him a 2 up lead and allowed him to “play defense” the final 8 holes to post a 1 up win over Yates.

 

A Final Match Full of Drama

How could a 36-hole golf match between two teenagers be so compelling?  Well…

Chase HannaChase Hanna – Sunday, July 28th is the date of the Kansas Amateur championship 36-hole match and it is  the local kid’s 19th birthday.  If he won he would become only the second person and the first since 1960 to win both the Kansas Junior and the Kansas Amateur in the same year.  Ironically, the only person to do that was a 17 year-old Johnny Stevens.  Yes, that is Sam Stevens’ grandfather.

 

Sam Stevens – if genes or pedigree can win you a Kansas Amateur then Stevens was a lock to win his first at the age of 17, the same age his grandfather was when he won his first of two consecutive Kansas Amateur titles.   Stevens also has an Uncle Jack who won the championship in 1974.  And of course, there is Charlie Stevens, Sam’s father, who won the centennial Kansas Amateur at Prairie Dunes in 2010 to create the first father and son line on the list of 102 Kansas Amateur champions.  Could a grandson be next?

 

A small group of KGA officials, club staff and some family members gathered at the first tee at 7:50 a.m. to “send the kids out to play”.   Even the local media had a reporter there to cover the contest.  It was another perfect day of filtered sunshine and little wind with comfortable temperatures in the 60s.  It was noted that if the event had been schedule for the Wichita area, it would have been rained out.

 

After the formal announcement and introduction of players and officials, the match began with Chase Hanna striking the first booming drive down the fairway.  Sam Stevens followed with an apparent nervous drive to the trees, from which he made a professional-like recovery for par and a halve.  Two more holes were halved and then at #4, the third easiest hole statistically all week, Hanna made a short game mistake that had bugged him all week.  Stevens’ par gave him a momentary 1 up advantage.

 

At the fifth hole, a par four with a tilted putting surface so severe it is wonder that any putt is ever made there, Hanna made a difficult putt for birdie and to get back to all square.

 

As if that bogey-birdie score on the last two holes woke him up, Hanna then birdied the #6 hole and the #8 hole to finish the front nine 2-under par and 2 up in the match.

 

Stevens then won the #11 hole, which for these players is drivable at 340 yards.  He was able to get his chip shot close and make birdie while Hanna could only manage a par.   At #14 and #15 the two traded bogeys so Hanna still had the 1 up advantage with the morning round winding down.  Holes #16 and #17 were halved with pars thus setting up the dramatic play of the final hole before the lunch break.

 

The par five #18 hole at Indian Hills is great finishing hole.  It is reachable in two strokes ifChase Hanna you avoid the trees on either side of the fairway, the well-placed fairway bunker and the out-of-bounds on the practice range to the right.  To build some drama, the tee markers were placed on a more forward tee that gives the hole an easier, straighter angle.   The players took the challenge and used their drivers to “swing for the fences”.   Safely in the fairway, both players put their second shots smartly on the putting green near the hole cut in the front and center of the large green.

 

Hanna’s chance to go to lunch with a 2 up advantage narrowly missed.  His remaining short birdie putt was conceded by Stevens.  Trailing 13 of the previous 17 holes, Stevens took his time to read his eagle putt and win the hole to square the match.  The putt was good all the way.

 

The scorecard would say that both players were 2-under par for the morning round, but the match play format puts them all Past Kansas Amateur champion Johnny Stevenssquare through 18 holes.

 

Who knows what happened with Sam Stevens during the 90 minute break in the match.  But when the afternoon session began he might have wished he could have kept right on playing after the dramatic eagle on the last hole of the morning.  His initial drive was hooked into the trees and a bogey followed.  Hanna ran in a putt for birdie on the second hole and Stevens was 2 down in what seemed like a steam-roller about to have its way.  Stevens made a one of his best putts of the day to save par at hole #3 when Hanna failed to do the same.  The #4 hole was halved, and then Hanna took control of the match on hole #5.

 

Not shaken by an errant drive to the right tree line, Hanna saw the opening and propelled a low shot with perfect aim that bounced between the bunkers guarding the approach to the green and the ball then settled on the left fringe.   From the fairway Stevens hit his approach to the middle of the green, but still a distance from the hole positioned to the far right side of the green.  Hanna had the flagstick left in the hole for his chip.  Good thing.  Hanna’s ball might have found the right fringe had it not hit the flagstick which sent it to the intended target – in the hole.  Stevens two-putted and was now 2 down, but still 13 holes left in the match.

 

The #6 hole was halved with pars and Hanna saved par on the #7 hole with a delicate bunker shot to within a foot of the hole.  Stevens tried to make a winning birdie but missed.Sam Stevens So, the two head to the 8th tee for the 26th hole of the match.

 

What happened on that short little par four 360-yard hole will not soon be forgotten by anyone in attendance.  Both players played good shots from the tee to wedge positions in the fairway.  Stevens played first.  Hitting one of his wedges too heavy Stevens’ approach was short.  The ball was in a deep bunker, the first one he had found greenside in any match that week.   Hanna got the opposite result.  His wedge shot finished a mere three feet from the hole.

 

Stevens entered the bunker for what he knew needed to be a shot close to the hole to save par and perhaps not lose another hole.  To his surprise the stroke was not good enough to get the ball over the high bunker lip and it returned to his feet.  A second attempt had the same result.  At the point, Stevens conceded the hole.  With the concession announced by the Referee everyone turned and walked to the ninth tee – except Stevens.  He retrieved his ball and played a stroke from the same bunker this time hitting onto the putting surface.  With this extra activity Stevens was slower to arrive at the ninth tee where the Referee inquired about this actions near the last green.  The explanation was candid and the conclusion unavoidable.

 

Rule 7-2 allows a player in match play to practice putt and chip on or near the putting green of the hole last played.   But, the player is not allowed to play practice strokes from a nearby hazard or bunker.  The penalty is loss of hole in match play.  Since the violation occurred after the result of the 26th hole, the penalty is applied to the 27th hole.

 

The Referee in match play must apply the penalty.  Hanna had no option to waive the penalty.  So having won the 26th hole with a conceded birdie and the 27th hole by virtue of the penalty, Hanna now stood 4 up with 9 holes remaining.   If Stevens was shaken by the incident it did not show.  He nearly made birdie at #10 but that hole was halved.

 

At the short par 4 drivable #11 hole, Hanna was able to make his birdie this time while Stevens did not, making the advantage now 5 holes for Hanna.  Stevens got one back and some hope of a miracle comeback when Hanna bogeyed the #12 hole.  But as Hanna had a habit of doing after a bad hole, he birdied the next one.  After the 13th hole, the 31st hole of the match, Hanna was dormie 5, meaning Stevens would have to win each of the next five holes to send the match to extra holes.

 

On #14 Hanna missed the green with his approach to the back, right hole location and then failed to save par.  Stevens’ par kept him alive with four holes to go.

 

At #15 both players hit very long drives but only Hanna found the fairway.  Stevens had to play a low running shot under the trees and hope the ball would stop near the hole.  It did not stop there.  It found the left bunker.   Hanna wedged his second shot to a few feet below the hole for a makeable birdie and certainly no worse than a two-putt par.

 

With one shot left for a chance to avoid the loss, Stevens knew he must hole the bunker shot.  His stance was awkward and the green had a big left to right downhill break to the front hole location.  Forgetting about what happened in the bunker at #8, Stevens focused on the shot and played what might have been his best one of the championship.  His ball came out the bunker with just the right arc, landed softly and began its purposeful roll to the hole.  His ball seemed to look over the right lip of the hole as it passed by.  Chase Hanna had just won the 103rd Kansas Amateur Match Play Championship with a 5&3 result over Sam Stevens.

 

A stat not noticed unless the scorecards for each of Hanna’s seven match play rounds are examined.  Hanna played 136 holes in six matches and only trailed one time for one hole.  That was after the 4th hole in the morning session of the final match.  The rest of the time Hanna was either up or all square to his opponent.

 

The assembled crowd of 100 spectators knew they had just seen two young players with bountiful talent and very bright futures in the game.  The applause accompanying the handshakes and hugs was loud and lengthy – a sure sign of appreciation and encouragement!

 

Considering the age of the two young finalists it is very likely the KGA will see one or both of them in the finals of a future Kansas Amateur.  How about a rematch, guys?