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Kansas Golf Associaition

Home Course Win for Belknap in Kansas Senior Amateur Debut

Kevin Belknap
of Wichita at the age of 59 has been a senior-age golfer for many years, but it wasn’t until this year that he saw a reason to enter the Kansas Senior Amateur.  The state’s premier senior amateur event was coming in mid-August to his long-time home club, Rolling Hills Country Club.   As a scratch golfer and hundreds of rounds at Rolling Hills stored in his memory, what better chance to win a KGA title was the question that confronted Belknap.

Defending champion Tim McKinnis of Lyons had never played Rolling Hills Country Club.  In fact, he had to forego any practice round there as well.  But that wasn’t going to stop the state’s top senior from trying to defend his Senior Amateur title.   McKinnis is on a roll over the last 12 months.  He won the 2015 Kansas Senior Amateur and he won the 2016 Railer.   At the Kansas Amateur in Garden City in July he tied with five others in the runner-up spot for medalist honors and was assigned the #6 match play seed.   He lost a 21 hole match to a player that advanced to the semifinals.

Belknap and McKinnis would take very different tours of Rolling Hills Country Club over two days in mid-August but they would finish in the same place – at 5-under par 139 in a tie for the championship.  A sudden-death playoff would follow.

The “maiden voyage” for McKinnis started with a routine par but then soared with five birdies on the next eight holes to finish the front nine at 5-under par 31.  And then he birdied the 10th hole to go 6-under par!  Tracy Chamberlin, cart mate with McKinnis, asked KGA officials if there might be some way to “disqualify” McKinnis for such a low score!    His first bogey of the day came at #11, but he promptly birdied #12 to get back to 6-under par.   A rough stretch found McKinnis beginning at #13 when he bogeyed three consecutive holes and that is where he finished the day at 3-under par 69.

Belknap’s first round was more like a familiar walk in the park.  Three birdies and no bogeys on the front nine put him at 3-under par 33, just two strokes on the blistering pace being set by the defending champion.  A single bogey on the day at #10 plus a fourth birdie at the par three 17th hole gave Belknap a tie for second place with McKinnis at 3-under par 69.

Tracy Chamberlin did not need any help from a phantom ruling to cool off McKinnis.  He just played his usual solid game of fairways and greens, making a few putts in route to a first round lead of 4-under par 68.

There were five other competitors at par or better after one round, but the leaders would focus on one another over the final 18.  Chamberlin, Belknap and McKinnis would garner all of the attention.  After four holes of the second round Chamberlin had two more birdies and had reached 6-under par for the championship.  Belknap was 3 strokes back as he only had one birdie in the opening four holes.   McKinnis was three strokes behind after a one birdie/one bogey offset on the opening holes.

Then Chamberlin’s lead began a slow and painful decline.  He bogeyed three of the next five holes to finish the front nine at 3-under par for the championship.   McKinnis traded another birdie or a bogey and stayed at 3-under par also.  However, Belknap maintained his 4-under pace and found himself in the lead for the first time standing on the 10th tee.

In the first round Belknap made only one bogey.  That was on the 10th hole, a 373-yard par four.  In round two he got redeemed on the 10th hole with a timely birdie to go 5-under par and maintain his one-stroke lead over McKinnis and expanding the margin to two over Chamberlin.

For the rest of the day Belknap maintained his 5-under par score while Chamberlin dropped out of contention with bogeys at #12 and #13.  McKinnis was playing the back nine much better than his first trip and maintaining his 4-under par pace.

With only the 18th hole to play, McKinnis needed a birdie to force a playoff should Belknap not birdie also.  That’s exactly what happened.   So, after returning their scorecard and making it official that the two were tied at 5-under par and a sudden-death playoff would be needed to determine the 2016 champion.

Beginning the playoff at the first hole, the two both parred and moved on to the par five 2nd hole.  McKinnis drove it about 330 yards to the middle of the fairway with 171 yards to the center of the green.  Belknap, not as long off the tee, was able to play his second shot to a greenside bunker.   McKinnis calculated that a 7-iron was his play for the approach to the green and a chance for an eagle or birdie and perhaps a successful title defense.  He played the stroke well and watched with anticipation as the ball flew over the green and into a water hazard!

At that point all Belknap needed was a good bunker shot and one or two putts to hole out.  He actually played the bunker shot close to the hole and made a birdie, his fifth of the day.   While no records are kept on the age of a first time entrant to win the Kansas Senior Amateur, it is entirely likely that Belknap could claim possession of record for oldest senior “rookie” champion!

In the Super Senior Division, Richard Stuntz of Lawrence shot even-par 144 to successfully defend his 2015 title by one-stroke over Wichita’s Ben York.